Archive for April, 2014

Additional Briefs Ordered in Dascola Case

Federal judge Lawrence Zatkoff has ordered that additional briefs be submitted in the lawsuit Bob Dascola has filed against the city of Ann Arbor. That means that Ann Arbor’s Ward 3 Democratic primary ballot won’t be set any sooner than May 6, when the additional briefs are due.

Dascola filed suit in order to be placed as a candidate on the ballot for Ann Arbor’s Ward 3 city council primary. He would join Democrats Julie Grand and Samuel McMullen in that race. Ann Arbor’s city charter includes two durational requirements for city councilmembers – that they be registered voters in the city for a year before election, and that they be residents of the ward they seek to represent for a year … [Full Story]

Public Art Projects Move Forward

Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (April 23, 2014): A major public art project for East Stadium bridges will be moving to the city council for approval, following a recommendation made at this month’s Ann Arbor public art commission meeting.

Kristin "KT" Tomey, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

KT Tomey is working on a project to develop maps for walking or running tours of public art in Ann Arbor. (Photos by the writer.)

“Arbor Winds” by Massachusetts artist Catherine Widgery features elevated, stand-alone louvered glass columns that are etched with images of trees – three on each end of the bridges, on the north side of Stadium Boulevard. The same type of louvered glass panels will also be used under the bridge along South State, affixed to the wall of the underpass – five sets on each side of South State Street. The overall project has a budget of $400,000 and has been in the works since 2011. If approved by council, it will likely be installed in 2015.

Commissioners also expressed enthusiasm for a new effort proposed by KT Tomey, who hopes to develop a mobile app for walking or running routes that highlight public art in Ann Arbor and on the University of Michigan campus. As a runner herself, she noted that people look for running routes when they visit new towns. So the app could be used to promote public art both to visitors and residents alike. Her first step is putting together .pdf maps that will be downloadable from AAPAC’s website.

Another new proposal prompted concerns about process. On the day of the meeting, John Kotarski – AAPAC’s vice chair – circulated an email to commissioners proposing that the city accept three pieces of donated art from Jim Pallas, an established Michigan artist and friend of Kotarski’s. The pieces are proposed to be located in the lobby of the Justice Center, in the atrium of city hall, and outside of city hall. Although commissioners seemed supportive of the idea, some expressed concern that the proposal wasn’t following AAPAC’s guidelines for accepting gifts of art, which include setting up a review committee.

Kotarski pointed out that Pallas is 75 years old. He noted that if artists donate artwork before they die, they can deduct the cost of materials from their taxes. But after they die, their estate is taxed on the market value of that artwork. “So these artists, at this point in their lives, have a financial incentive to find a good place for their artwork,” he said. “If we can make that process simple and easy for Jim – and pleasant – then I’m sure he’s willing to go to his friends” and encourage them to donate too.

He reported that the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority has offered a $500 honorarium to Pallas for each donated piece. Kotarski said the three pieces have a total estimated value of $100,000. He also mentioned that Pallas’ daughter, a law professor, knows city attorney Stephen Postema and that they’ve “made arrangement to resolve any legal issues necessary to facilitate this donation.”

Kotarski told commissioners that he’s tried to assure Pallas that this will work out, but “that’s why I’m a little nervous giving him these assurances, only to have this fall through at the last minute. That’s not going to be pleasant.”

Marsha Chamberlin said she recognized the benefits of encouraging Michigan artists to donate their work. “But we are a public body, and we have procedures. I just think it’s important that we observe those rules because we don’t want to make an exception for one thing, then hold someone’s feet to the fire for something else.”

Commissioners agreed that AAPAC chair Bob Miller would work with Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, to set up a gift selection committee to review this proposal and make a recommendation to AAPAC.

In other action, the commission approved its annual art plan for fiscal 2015, which begins on July 1, 2014. The plan includes projects that are already underway, as well as proposed capital projects to be enhanced with public art. The ongoing projects are: (1) artwork for East Stadium bridges; (2) public art at Arbor Oaks Park; (3) Canoe Imagine Art; and (4) the Coleman Jewett memorial. The proposed enhanced capital projects are street and sidewalk stamping, painting or stenciling in four locations to be determined, for a total cost of $30,000. The city council would need to approve these projects before they would move forward.

Commissioners also approved applying for a $10,000 National Endowment for the Arts Challenge America Fast Track grant. The money, if awarded, would require matching funds in an equivalent amount from other sources for a public art project at Arbor Oaks Park in southeast Ann Arbor, located near Bryant Elementary School and the Bryant Community Center.

Fundraising continues for the Coleman Jewett memorial at the Ann Arbor farmers market, but Canoe Imagine Art has stalled. The community art project is intended as a temporary art display in downtown Ann Arbor using old canoes from the city that would be repurposed as public art. The city had hoped that the Ann Arbor Convention & Visitors Bureau would take administrative responsibility for the project, but the CVB has declined. Chamberlin, who’s taking the lead on this effort, said that if workarounds can’t be found for some of the administrative issues, “we have to kiss this project good-bye.” [Full Story]

Main & Summit

Planning staff and commissioners, on a walking tour as part of their retreat, pause to help a stranded motorist push a stalled car at Main & Summit off the street into 721 N. Main – a city site that was part of the tour. [photo] Planning manager Wendy Rampson directs traffic. [photo]

Ann Arbor Taxi Board Reacts to Uber

Ann Arbor taxicab board meeting (April 23, 2014): In its one action taken at the meeting, the board approved making a request of the city attorney’s office to come up with a draft of an ordinance amendment – that would require all drivers for hire to be registered in the city.

April 23, 2014 meeting of the Ann Arbor taxicab board.

April 23, 2014 meeting of the Ann Arbor taxicab board at city hall. (Photo by the writer.)

The action comes in response to Uber‘s entry into the Ann Arbor market. Uber is a service, based on a mobile app, that coordinates prospective passengers with drivers who are willing to make the trip. Currently the city’s taxicab ordinance covers only taxicab drivers – not limousine drivers or any other drivers for hire. The board wants to see a draft ordinance that would include all drivers for hire – so that Uber’s drivers would need to be registered in the city of Ann Arbor.

Stephen Kunselman, who serves as the city council’s representative to the taxicab board, put it this way at the meeting: “The number one issue of regulating drivers in the industry is for public safety, alright? I want to know who these drivers are who are driving around picking up people in our town, okay? Number one issue.”

A change to the city’s ordinance could come only after approval by the city council.

The action requesting the city attorney’s office to begin work on an ordinance amendment was not actually on the board’s meeting agenda. The one item for discussion had been to consider possible deregulation of taxicab fares in the city – a topic the board has been considering for about a year. As board chair Michael Benson put it, “It’s time to address it one way or the other.” Currently the maximum rate is $3 to get in, $2.50 per mile, and $0.40 a minute waiting time.

Those rates were last adjusted upwards on May 16, 2011, in response to gas prices that had nudged past $4 per gallon. With one exception, representatives of taxicab companies at the April 23 meeting were not looking for the kind of $0.25 adjustments that have been made in the past. Instead, they’re looking for a high maximum – along the lines of $5 to get in and $5 per mile – so that a competitive market could develop under that cap.

Benson and Tom Crawford – the city’s CFO and an ex officio member of the board – steered the conversation toward identifying ways to measure success of any change in the city’s approach to regulating fares: “What is it that you want to achieve? Let’s get some clarity on that so that we can identify whether we have succeeded or not. That’s the real point,” said Crawford.

What came out of that board discussion was that the measurement of success should include the number of taxicabs being operated in the city. At the meeting, Ann Arbor police officer Jamie Adkins told board members that for the three years from 2008 to 2010 there were 177, 193, and 179 taxicabs operating in the city, respectively. But when Yellow Car converted all but one vehicle to limousine, that number dropped to 111 in 2011. In 2012 there were 132 taxicabs, she said, and the current figure is 124.

The board’s past effort to regulate the entire livery industry – including limousines, which are supposed to take only pre-arranged, not hailed rides – has included recommendations to revise the city’s ordinance so that limousine companies cannot hold themselves out as taxicab companies. And the city council enacted those changes in 2011. But according to officer Adkins, AAPD has learned that those aspects of the ordinance can’t be the primary reason for a police traffic stop. [.pdf of Ann Arbor taxicab ordinance] [Full Story]

WCC: No Confidence Vote

The Washtenaw Voice reports that the Washtenaw Community College Education Association will hold a no-confidence vote against WCC president Rose Bellanca on May 1, the date of the union’s next general meeting. According to the report, WCCEA President Maryam Barrie addressed WCC trustees at their April meeting to describe the faculty’s concerns, which include “tactics of intimidation and isolation,” an increase in administrators while cutting departmental budgets, and a lack of transparency. Any decision regarding Bellanca’s employment would come from the WCC board of trustees, which hired her in 2011. [Source]

Q & A: City Office Eligibility Requirements

The lineups for all the Ann Arbor city council primary races on Aug. 5, 2014 have now been finalized – except for Ward 3. Whether Bob Dascola’s name will appear alongside those of Julie Grand and Samuel McMullen will depend on the outcome of a lawsuit that has been filed in federal district court.

Tom Wieder (Photo provided by Wieder. The margins of The Chronicle layout required cropping out the person next to whom Wieder is standing.)

Tom Wieder. (Photo provided by Wieder. The margins of The Chronicle inline layout required cropping out the person next to whom Wieder is standing.)

The Chronicle has previously covered the various lawsuit filings in a fair amount of detail. The central issue in the case is whether Ann Arbor city charter requirements that were struck down as unconstitutional and declared null and void in 1972 can still be applied today.

While we’re waiting for a decision to be handed down, we thought it would be useful to get a possibly more accessible, spoken-word treatment of the lawsuit’s subject matter. To that end, we talked with Dascola’s attorney, Tom Wieder.

Wieder litigated a case similar to Dascola’s back in 2001.

Some highlights from the conversation include the fact that Wieder thinks the city council potentially has a role to play in the city’s handling of the case – based on the fact that the city attorney is accountable to the city council. The city’s legal stance should be determined by the council, Wieder says, not by the city attorney.

And Wieder talks about the fact that a council controlled by Democrats should allow the Democratic Party principle of free and open access to the ballot to guide their thinking on this matter – given that there are at least two plausible points of view on the enforceability of the city charter’s eligibility requirements.

The council’s particular responsibility as a group of Democrats leads to some discussion of the idea that Ann Arbor Democrats, who dominate city politics today, might be a different stripe from the Democrats of the early 1970s and 1980s, who fought for fewer eligibility requirements on candidates for city office.

It’s fair to point out that that Wieder was involved in two key changes to Ann Arbor’s electoral process that could reasonably be analyzed as leading to Ann Arbor’s current political life being dominated by Democrats: (1) redrawing ward boundaries in 1991; and (2) shifting elections from April to November.

Wieder also ventures that the Democratic dominance of local city politics might have lessened an historically strong Democratic interest in the value of process, and not just doing the right things, but doing things the right way: “… I think the fact that the Democrats have now been in charge pretty much for a while, there may be less self-examination when it comes to process and basic political principles than when somebody else was controlling those levers.”

Asked what he thinks the eligibility requirements for city council and mayor should be, Wieder suggests these requirements: At the time of filing petitions for office, a mayoral candidate should be a registered voter in the city; and at the time of filing petitions for office, candidates for city council should be registered voters in the wards they seek to represent.

One unsuccessful attempt to clean up the city charter – so that there are clear and constitutional eligibility requirements – was made in 2003. No matter how Dascola’s lawsuit turns out, Wieder thinks the city council needs to make a better effort to clean up the city charter – by establishing clear and constitutional eligibility requirements for mayor and city council. The council could propose different charter language on eligibility requirements for elective office and place a charter amendment before voters.

During the conversation, Wieder describes how the Wojack case led the city to print up two different sets of ballots, one with Wojack’s name and another set without it. If the Dascola case is resolved by early June, that contingency would not be necessary this time around.

The conversation with Wieder is presented in Q & A format below, with some re-ordering and editing.  [Full Story]

Old West Side to Newport

During the two-mile commute from my Old West Side home to Forsythe Middle School on Newport Road, where I work, I counted signs for and against the May 6 transit millage proposal. The tally: 3 homes sporting No signs, 15 with Yes signs.

Equalization Report Shows Stronger Economy

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (April 16, 2014): Most local governments in Washtenaw County will see increases in tax revenue this year, according to the 2014 equalization report that county commissioners approved on April 16.

Raman Patel, Conan Smith, Dan Smith, equalization, Washtenaw County board of commissioners, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Washtenaw County equalization director Raman Patel with commissioners Conan Smith (D-District 9) and Dan Smith (R-District 2) at the April 16, 2014 board of commissioners meeting. (Photos by the writer.

The report was presented by Raman Patel, the county’s long-time equalization director. “Washtenaw County is showing improvements in the market,” he told commissioners. “We are slowly regaining our county’s equalized base. It appears that the worst part of the decline in market value is behind us.”

For 2014, taxable value in the county increased 2.02% to $14.18 billion. That’s a greater increase than the 1.68% climb in 2013, and an improvement over declines seen in recent years. Patel cautioned that several factors are impacting revenue for local governments, including the phase-out of personal property taxes, a variety of exemptions, and tax capture from entities like downtown development authorities.

More of the tax burden is also being shifted to residential property owners, he noted, compared to other categories, like commercial property. The category of residential property accounts for 67.34% of total property value in the county. Five years ago, in 2009, it was 63%.

In other action on April 16, commissioners gave initial approval to distribute proceeds from a countywide tax on hotels and other accommodations. For 2013, $472,846 was available for distribution. If the resolution is given final approval, the county will keep 10% ($47,285) to pay for enforcement of the accommodation ordinance. The remainder will be divided between the Ann Arbor Convention & Visitors Bureau ($319,171) and the Ypsilanti Convention & Visitors Bureau ($106,390).

During public commentary, Mary Kerr, president of the Ann Arbor Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Jason Morgan, director of government relations for Washtenaw Community College, highlighted the union training programs that will be coming to the area this summer. The CVBs have been instrumental in recruiting these kinds of events to Washtenaw County.

Commissioners also gave initial approval to the annual Urban County action plan, which outlines proposed projects funded by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. The Urban County is a consortium of Washtenaw County and 18 local municipalities that receive federal funding for low-income neighborhoods. Members include the cities of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Saline, and 15 townships.

Final authorization was given to a two-year pricing proposal – for 2016 and 2017 – to provide police services to local municipalities through contracts with the county sheriff’s office. And commissioners gave final approval to a new brownfield redevelopment plan for the Thompson Block in Ypsilanti’s Depot Town.

In other action, the board passed a resolution declaring April 13-19 as National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week in Washtenaw County. They also honored Dr. Eugene Glysson, who had served on the county’s board of public works (BPW) since 1986, and was its chair since 1996. He died on April 2.

Several issues were raised during public commentary, including concerns about emergency sirens installed by a pasture in Scio Township. The owner told commissioners that the sirens spook his horses, causing a dangerous situation if anyone is riding them or standing nearby. Other topics discussed by the public included the creation of a new group to help end homelessness, called Our 2020 Vision, and efforts by University of Michigan students to reduce the use of plastic bags by imposing a per-bag usage fee. They’re garnering support in part through a petition. [Full Story]

Brooks & Pearl

Mixed marriage. [One yard with signs for and against May 6, 2014 transit millage] [photo]

UM: Salaries

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a letter that University of Michigan faculty sent to UM regents on April 20, questioning the high salaries of university administrators. From the letter: “The University is in desperate and urgent need of fiscal reform. Arresting the steep increases in salaries to top administrators, reforming the secretive bonus culture of the Fleming administration building, terminating the toxic AST project, and refocusing the attention of the University on its core mission of teaching, research, and service should save the University many tens of millions of dollars per year. We urge you to work with incoming President-Elect Schlissel to introduce and implement these necessary reforms as soon as practically possible.” The 40-page document includes a … [Full Story]

Column: One Runner’s Road to Boston

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

In 1896, the first modern Olympics in Athens staged a marathon. The next year the Boston Athletic Association followed suit. Just 18 men ran that day, and the winner finished in about three hours – something office workers can beat today.

Most people thought they were crazy – if they thought of them at all. Many people probably still do.

Marathoners don’t care.

“We are different, in essence, from other men,” said Czechoslovakian star Emil Zatopek – and he would know.  After winning the 1952 Helsinki Olympic gold medals in the 5K and 10K, he decided at the last minute to enter the marathon – and won that, too. “If you want to win something, run 100 meters.  If you want to experience something, run a marathon.”

Greg Meyer knows exactly what Zatopek was talking about. Like Zatopek, Meyer wasn’t made to run the marathon – but he couldn’t resist it.

Meyer grew up in Grand Rapids, and enrolled at the University of Michigan in 1973. Before his sophomore year, Michigan hired a new cross-country coach named Ron Warhurst, another unlikely figure in this drama. Warhurst had returned from Vietnam with two Purple Hearts, and a hard-won lesson: “The world doesn’t stop because you’re scared.”

Warhurst had been a good runner, but was a great coach. He had an uncanny ability to get inside his runners’ heads, and get more out of them. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Election Eligibility Lawsuit: Update

Now that the April 22 petition filing deadline has passed, the Aug. 5, 2014 ballots for partisan primaries for Ann Arbor mayor and city council are set – except possibly in Ward 3. The outcome of a pending lawsuit will determine whether the final lineup for the Ward 3 Democratic primary includes Bob Dascola along with Julie Grand and Samuel McMullen.

All the briefs have now been filed in Bob Dascola's lawsuit, which he filed in order to appear on the ballot for Ward 3 city council.

Extracted from the cover page of one of the briefs from Bob Dascola’s lawsuit. All the briefs have now been filed in the lawsuit, which Dascola filed in order to appear on the ballot for Ward 3 city council. A decision is expected before the ballots go to the printer.

Dascola’s case is being heard in U.S. District Court by judge Lawrence Zatkoff. On Wednesday, April 23, the deadline expired for the last item on the expedited briefing schedule ordered by Zatkoff. That last item was the city’s reply to Dascola’s response to the city’s motion to dismiss the case. A total of six briefs have been filed, three for each side, after the initial complaint.

The lawsuit stems from the fact that the city clerk has informed Dascola that he is not eligible to be a candidate under city charter requirements. Both of the charter requirements in question – durational one-year requirements for voter registration and for residency – were ruled unconstitutional in separate rulings made by the U.S. District Court in the early 1970s. That’s the basis of Dascola’s complaint. He also contends that he does, in fact, meet the residency requirement.

The city’s position is that Ann Arbor city charter requirements have been revived by subsequent cases in various other venues in the intervening years.

Dascola has submitted sufficient signatures to qualify, so if he’s ruled eligible, he would appear on the Ward 3 ballot. The point of the expedited briefing schedule was to settle the issue before ballots are finalized in June. With the expedited briefing schedule now complete, a ruling could come quickly. Another possibility is that Zatkoff could order a hearing on the motions before making a decision.

This report includes an overview of the case and some highlights from the briefings, along with links to .pdf files of all the briefings. [Full Story]

First & Washington

Crew has dug into the intersection of First & Washington “to determine the source of a small sinkhole,” according to the city of Ann Arbor. Men in the pit don’t appear to be sinking. [photo]

AADL Board Reviews Budget, New Entrance

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (April 21, 2014): Two items were the main focus of this month’s AADL board meeting: a review of the upcoming fiscal year’s budget, and action on the redesigned entrance to the downtown library.

Ken Nieman, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ken Nieman, AADL’s outgoing associate director of finance, HR and operations, has taken a job as CFO of the public library in Sonoma County, California. His last day at AADL is May 2. (Photos by the writer.)

The proposed fiscal year 2014-15 budget – for the 12 months starting July 1, 2014 – is based on a levy of 1.55 mills, unchanged from the current rate. The library is authorized to levy up to 1.92 mills, but in recent years the board has set the millage rate at lower levels. The $12.568 million budget assumes a 2.4% increase in the district’s property tax base.

The board is expected to vote on the budget at its May 19 meeting.

Related to the redesigned downtown library’s front entrance, the board authorized the library director, Josie Parker, to hire a construction manager for the project. Board members also allocated $18,580 from the fund balance to pay InForm Studio for construction documents. InForm Studio, the architecture firm that previously designed AADL’s Traverwood branch, has been working on this project for several months. An update was given most recently at the board’s March 17, 2014 meeting.

Before taking action, the board heard from InForm Studio’s Cory Lavigne, who presented a revised design for the project, based on feedback from board members and the public. A large translucent sign that had previously been part of the design is now eliminated, after some board members voiced concerns about security issues that it might cause. A bench in front of the building – originally part of the proposed design – has been removed. Instead, a sign that’s low to the ground is proposed in that location.

The existing teal porcelain panels that wrap around the front facade, part of architect Alden Dow’s original design from the mid-1950s, will be replaced with a “concrete skin” panel. The entrance will continue to be oriented to South Fifth Avenue, with new doors into the building. Leading from the front of the building into the vestibule will be two balanced double doors, which will be easier to open than the existing entry, and a single automatic door. A matching set of these doors will lead from the vestibule to the interior of the building.

Lavigne reviewed several other changes, some of which addressed accessibility concerns that were raised in the preliminary design. A heated sidewalk is proposed along the exterior edge of the steps.

The board spent several minutes discussing a suggestion from Ed Surovell, who wanted more than just one flagpole in front of the building. Trustees reached consensus for the details to be worked out by the architect and the facilities committee, on which Surovell serves. Other members of the facilities committee are Margaret Leary and Jan Barney Newman.

The April 21 meeting also marked some transitions in top administrative positions. Associate director Ken Nieman, who has worked at AADL for 14 years, has taken a job as CFO for the public library in Sonomo County, California. His last day at AADL will be May 2. That will also be the last day for human resources manager DeAnn Doll, who’s been with AADL for about 15 years. She has accepted a job as director of human resources for Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland, Florida.

Earlier this year, Celeste Choate – AADL’s former associate director of services, collections and access – was hired as executive director of the Urbana Free Library in Urbana, Illinois. She started that position on April 1.

At the April 21 meeting, AADL director Josie Parker noted that change is a constant, “and while we miss people, we look forward to the opportunities that change brings us.” [Full Story]

Warpehoski: One Year on EC

In a roundup of the lineup for the Aug. 5, 2014 primary elections, we overstated by one year Ward 5 councilmember Chuck Warpehoski’s length of service as a council representative on the city’s environmental commission. He served in that capacity during his first year on the council. We note the error here and have corrected the original article.

Art Commission OKs Stadium Bridges Art

The Ann Arbor public art commission has recommended approval of “Arbor Winds” artwork for East Stadium bridges, designed by Massachusetts artist Catherine Widgery. The action came at AAPAC’s April 23, 2014 meeting. The recommendation will be forwarded to the city council for consideration. [.pdf of proposal]

Catherine Widgery, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Catherine Widgery’s rendering of her proposed public artwork for East Stadium bridges. (Image provided in the April 23, 2014 AAPAC meeting packet.)

In early August of 2013, Catherine Widgery of Cambridge, Mass. was recommended as the artist for this project. She was picked by a selection panel from four finalists who had submitted proposals … [Full Story]

Liberty & Main

Little yellow car circles the sidewalk when anyone approaches. A person inside car serves as the engine.

Council, Mayor Primary Election Lineups Set

The 4 p.m. deadline for filing petitions to appear on the ballot in Ann Arbor’s city primary elections passed today with no surprises, but a bit of suspense. All candidates who took out petitions and intended to file them did so and the clerk’s office was able to verify sufficient signatures for all candidates. The primary elections will be held on Aug. 5, 2014.

Samuel McMullen turned in supplemental signatures to qualify for the Ward 3 city council ballot. He'll be contesting the open Ward 3 seat with Julie Grand and possibly Bob Dascola.

Samuel McMullen turned in supplemental signatures to qualify for the Ward 3 city council ballot on April 22. He’ll be contesting the open Ward 3 seat with Julie Grand and possibly Bob Dascola.

Council candidates must collect 100 signatures from voters registered in the ward they seek to represent. Mayoral candidates need 50 signatures from each of the city’s five wards.

All candidates who filed petitions are Democrats. No Republicans took out petitions. Only one race is uncontested – in Ward 4.

Here’s a quick listing of candidates for city office. Mayor: Sabra Briere, Stephen Kunselman, Sally Petersen, Christopher Taylor. Ward 1: Sumi Kailasapathy, Don Adams, Jr. Ward 2: Nancy Kaplan, Kirk Westphal. Ward 3: Julie Grand, Samuel McMullen and possibly Bob Dascola. Ward 4: Graydon Krapohl. Ward 5: Chuck Warpehoski, Leon Bryson.

The minor suspense stemmed from the fact that McMullen had fallen eight signatures short with his initial filing. But he handed in 17 supplemental signatures on April 22, about a half hour before the deadline. Those signatures gave him more than the 100 total he needed.

One independent, Bryan Kelly, took out petitions in Ward 1 – but he’s been informed by the city clerk’s office that he does not meet the one-year residency and voter registration requirements in the city charter. Kelly might become eligible, depending on the outcome of a pending lawsuit that’s been filed against the city by a would-be Ward 3 candidate, Bob Dascola.

Dascola has submitted sufficient signatures to qualify for the ballot, but has also been informed that he does not meet the charter requirements on one-year residency and voter registration. The U.S. District Court is handling the case on an expedited schedule, so the matter is likely be settled before ballots are finalized in June.

As an independent, Kelly would have until July 17 to file petitions to appear on the November ballot.

Brief snapshot descriptions of all candidates except for those in Ward 1, based largely on their own remarks or campaign website descriptions, are presented in this report. [Editor's note: We've elected instead to add Ward 1 candidate information to this article, instead of creating a separate file.] [Full Story]

County Board Races Set for Aug. 5 Primary

Competition in only one district for the Washtenaw County board of commissioners will play out in the Aug. 5, 2014 primary. Four Democratic candidates have filed for that seat. The deadline to file for the primary election was 4 p.m. on April 22.

In the remaining eight county districts, incumbents are unopposed in the primary but in most cases face competition in the Nov. 6 general election. Only the board’s two Republican incumbents – Dan Smith and Alicia Ping – are unopposed in the primary and will not face a Democratic opponent in November.

In District 5, incumbent Democrat Rolland Sizemore Jr. decided not to run for re-election. Four Democrats and one Republican have filed for that seat, which represents southeast … [Full Story]

Council Delays Some Action on Sidewalks

Sidewalk gaps on Scio Church Road and Newport Road in Ann Arbor took  a couple of steps closer to being filled as the result of city council action taken at its April 21, 2014 meeting.

Both projects were on the agenda to be handled as special assessments of property owners whose land would benefit from the sidewalks. Action on the special assessment portion of the funding for construction of the Scio Church sidewalk was delayed until the council’s second meeting in May – on May 19. Action on the Newport Road sidewalk special assessment moved forward.

For the sidewalk segment on Newport Road, the council approved a resolution directing the city assessor to prepare a special assessment roll of properties to be … [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Passes Outdoor Smoking Law

A new Ann Arbor law regulating smoking outside of public buildings and also potentially in areas of some city parks has been given final approval by the city council.

A pole for disposing of cigarette butts placed outside the Ann Street entrance to Ann Arbor's city hall building.

A pole for disposing of cigarette butts is placed outside the Ann Street entrance to Ann Arbor’s city hall building.

Smoking within a specified distance of certain locations is punishable under the new ordinance through a $25 civil fine. Those locations include: … [Full Story]

Council OKs $600K for Ann Arbor Housing Commission

Three resolutions supporting the Ann Arbor Housing Commission’s work to renovate its housing stock have been given approval by the Ann Arbor city council: a $600,000 transfer from the city’s affordable housing fund to AAHC; approval of a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for AAHC properties; and approval of a 50% waiver of fees for capital improvement projects to be undertaken by AAHC.

The three actions were taken at the city council’s April 21, 2014 meeting.

By way of background, at its March 3, 2014 meeting, the council had directed the city administrator to prepare a budget resolution that would allocate $600,000 from the city’s affordable housing trust fund to support the AAHC’s plan to renovate its properties.

That allocation … [Full Story]

Tussle over Environmental Appointments to Come

Appointments to the city’s environmental commission (EC) will likely a point of friction at the Ann Arbor city council’s May 5, 2014 meeting. Re-appointments for currently serving members of the EC – Kirk Westphal, David Stead, and Susan Hutton – were brought forward at the council’s meeting on April 21.

The action taken by the council at its April 21 meeting was to postpone the vote until May 5. That’s not unusual for appointments to the EC – because nominations are not made by the mayor, as with most boards and commissions. Past practice as been for the appointments to the EC to mimic the typical two-step mayoral appointment process – with nomination at one meeting followed by confirmation at the … [Full Story]

Development: Council OKs 3 Site Plans

Three different site plans were approved by the Ann Arbor city council at its April 21, 2014 meeting: Concordia University’s proposed gym expansion; an expansion of an office building on Collingwood; and the overhaul of a Shell station on South State.

A site plan to expand the existing Concordia University gym was approved by the city council with scant discussion, but with thanks expressed by Jane Lumm (Ward 2) Concordia University CEO Curt Gielow.

Concordia University, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view of Concordia campus.

The plan also includes reconfiguring nearby parking lots and stormwater management features on the 187-acre site at … [Full Story]

Library Board Reviews FY 2014-15 Budget

At its April 21, 2014 meeting, the Ann Arbor District Library board reviewed its proposed fiscal year 2014-15 budget, which is based on a millage rate of 1.55 mills – unchanged from the current rate. [.pdf of draft budget summary]

The $12.568 million budget assumes a 2.4% increase in tax revenues, based on an increase in property values. The library is authorized to levy up to 1.92 mills, but in recent years the board has set the millage rate at lower levels.

The budget reflects a 3% increase in the merit raise pool for full-time employees. Salaries, wages and benefits account for the largest portion of the budget expenditures – a projected $8.048 million in fiscal 2014-15. Other major line items include … [Full Story]

Library Moves Ahead on Downtown Facade

A renovation of the downtown library’s front entrance took a step forward, following action by the Ann Arbor District Library board at its April 21, 2014 meeting.

Ann Arbor District Library, InForm Studio, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Rendering of the new design for the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown building entrance. (Image by InForm Studio.)

The board authorized the library director, Josie Parker, to hire a construction manager for the project. Board members also allocated $18,580 from the fund balance to pay InForm Studio for construction documents. InForm Studio, the architecture firm that previously designed AADL’s Traverwood branch, has been working on this project for several months. An update was given … [Full Story]

Fifth & Huron

City of Ann Arbor chief financial officer Tom Crawford delivers FY 2015 budget books (three-ring binders) to mailboxes of city councilmembers. City administrator Steve Powers will be making his budget presentation to the council at tonight’s meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. [photo] [For a preview of the budget, see "FY 2015 Budget Preview: Cops, Trees"]