Stories indexed with the term ‘Al McWilliams’

Ann Arbor Grinds Gears But OKs Rail Study

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, the meeting adjourned.

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]

Re-Vote: Al McWilliams Still on DDA Board

A reconsideration of Al McWilliams’ appointment to the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority has resulted in the same council vote as the previous one – a 6-5 tally in favor of appointment. The initial vote was taken on Sept. 16. The re-vote was taken at the council’s Oct. 21 meeting.

Al McWilliams

Al McWilliams attended the Oct. 2, 2013 meeting of the DDA board and voted on the one agenda item. This photo is from Chronicle coverage of that meeting.

The Sept 16 vote came after mayor John Hieftje stated during deliberations on Sept. 3 – as McWilliams’ confirmation that night appeared not to … [Full Story]

Oct. 21, 2013 Ann Arbor Council: Final

The Oct. 21, 2013 meeting of the Ann Arbor city council is the last one before the Nov. 5 election. After the election, the current group of councilmembers will have just one more meeting, on Nov. 7, before the new council is seated. The agenda the current council faces on Oct. 21 is relatively heavy.

New sign on door to Ann Arbor city council chamber

The sign on the door to the Ann Arbor city council chamber, installed in the summer of 2013, includes Braille.

It’s possible that the council might be briefed at the meeting on proposals received by the Oct. 18 deadline for the purchase of the city-owned parcel on William Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues (the former Y lot), but that’s not yet clear. The property had been listed for $4.2 million.

Many of the Oct. 21 items already on the agenda can be divided into three main categories: transportation, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, and the city’s energy commission.

The council held a work session about transportation on Oct. 14, 2013. Transportation-related items on the Oct. 21 agenda include a resolution that would admit Ypsilanti Township as a member of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. The specific question to be considered is a revision to the AAATA’s articles of incorporation – which would also expand the number of board members from nine to 10.

A second transportation-related agenda item is a city-led initiative to develop a new train station, with the location to be determined. The existing location, as well as one on Fuller Road near the University of Michigan medical campus, would be among the possibilities. On the council’s agenda is a contract with URS Corp. to conduct an environmental review that would include public engagement, site selection and conceptual design. The council’s authorization would be $824,875, an amount that includes a $63,083 contingency. The city would pay 20% of that, or about $165,000, with the rest covered by a federal grant that has already been awarded by the Federal Rail Authority.

To the extent that pedestrian infrastructure is also part of the city’s transportation system, a transportation-related pair of items would alter the definition of “sidewalk” to include cross-lot walkways. Affected by the change, for example, would be walkways that connect streets with parks or school property. The change would allow for use of sidewalk repair millage funds to repair cross-lot walkways, without triggering the winter maintenance requirement for adjacent property owners.

Finally, the city council will be asked to approve an annual resolution related to wintertime transportation – the purchase of ice control salt for city streets.

Related to the Ann Arbor DDA are three items: (1) reconsideration of the appointment of Al McWilliams to the board of that authority – likely to be confirmed on a re-vote, if reconsideration is approved; (2) final consideration of a change to the city ordinance regulating the DDA’s TIF (tax increment financing) capture – likely to be postponed yet again; and (3) a budget allocation of $280,000 to cover costs associated with replacement of downtown ornamental, pedestrian-scale light poles. The DDA is contributing $300,000 to the cost of the $580,000 project. Some councilmembers think the DDA should pay for the full amount, so the eight-vote majority required for the budget amendment might not be achieved.

The specific size of the majority vote required could also be a factor in one of two agenda items related to the city’s energy commission – the re-appointment of Wayne Appleyard to the commission. The confirmation will need a seven-vote majority under the city charter, because he’s not a city resident. The other energy-related item is an energy commission-recommended resolution – which was previously rejected, reconsidered and postponed by the city council. The resolution would call upon the city’s employee retirement board to divest from fossil fuel companies.

This article includes a more detailed preview of each of these agenda items. More details on other meeting agenda items are available on the city’s online Legistar system. Readers can also follow the live meeting proceedings Monday evening on Channel 16, streamed online by Community Television Network.

The Chronicle will be filing live updates from city council chambers during the meeting, published in this article below the preview material. The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. [Full Story]

Opinion on McWilliams Vote Released

Ann Arbor city attorney Stephen Postema has complied with the city council’s direction to produce a written opinion on the question of the legal validity of the council’s 6-5 vote taken on Sept. 16, 2013 – to appoint Al McWilliams to the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. [.pdf of Oct. 16, 2013 opinion]

In reaching the conclusion that the vote is legally valid, Postema relies on the city charter, the council’s rules and Robert’s Rules of Order. The opinion relies on the basic principle that objections to a conclusion that a motion has passed must be made in a timely way.

Postema’s opinion does not attempt to settle the question of whether an 8-vote majority should have been … [Full Story]

Council Focus: Nominations, Neighborhoods

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. [Full Story]

Council Focus Again on DDA Board: McWilliams

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

In one Oct. 7 action, the council voted 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 reopen 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 … [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Council to Weigh Privilege Waiver

A resolution that’s been added to the Ann Arbor city council’s Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 agenda would, if approved, result in the waiver of attorney-client privilege with respect to a specific advice memo that has already been written by the city attorney’s office.

The memo responds to questions that were raised about the procedure used to appoint Al McWilliams to the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority at the council’s Sept. 16, 2013 meeting. Mayor John Hieftje asked the council to vote on McWilliams’ appointment after saying at a previous meeting 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 … [Full Story]

Column: How to Count to 8, Stopping at 6

The Ann Arbor city council’s vote last Monday on the appointment of Al McWilliams to the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority was 6-5 on the 11-member body. A 6-5 vote for the Ann Arbor council is rare, and reflects a certain amount of controversy surrounding McWilliams’ appointment.

6 is not actually greater than or equal to 8

Fact: 6 is not actually greater than or equal to 8.

But in this column I’d like to leave aside the controversies that led to such a narrow split. Instead, I’d like to review the history of the legislative actions that led up to the 6-5 vote at the council’s Sept. 16, 2013 meeting. That review leads me to conclude that eight votes should have been required for approval.

A quick narrative summary goes like this: McWilliams was set to be nominated, then not actually nominated, but then nominated after all, then had his nomination “withdrawn,” and then finally had his nomination voted on by the council. But in the end, the six-vote majority was declared enough to confirm his membership on the DDA board, replacing Newcombe Clark, who made an employment-related move to Chicago after serving one four-year term.

Choice of the phrase “was declared enough to confirm” is not accidental. Even though the tally of six votes was deemed sufficient by the city clerk and mayor John Hieftje for approval of the motion, I think the vote actually required eight votes to pass.

Under the council’s rules, a nomination to a board or commission can’t be confirmed or approved before the next regular meeting of the council – unless eight members of the council vote for the confirmation. So the typical pattern is that a nomination is put forward at one meeting and the vote on confirmation is taken at the next regular meeting.

Hieftje explicitly stated at the council’s Sept. 3 meeting – during deliberations – that he was withdrawing the nomination of McWilliams. The matter was not “postponed” – as Hieftje described it at the Sept. 16 meeting – because the council did not vote on the McWilliams nomination at all, much less vote in a way that postponed consideration. It certainly would have been an option for the council to have entertained a motion to postpone. But councilmembers did not wind up voting on it at all, and Hieftje stated: “Okay, so I will withdraw it [McWilliams' nomination] tonight.”

Under any rational understanding of the nomination and confirmation procedure, Hieftje needed to take some affirmative action to put the nomination before the council again, which could have been done at the Sept. 16 meeting. Early in that meeting, during communications time, Hieftje indicated to the council he’d be bringing McWilliams’ nomination forward toward the end of the meeting, when nominations and confirmations are handled. The nomination was not on the council’s agenda as of 4 p.m. that day and came as a surprise to some councilmembers.

But instead of just placing the nomination of McWilliams before the council, Hieftje also asked the council on Sept. 16 to vote on confirmation, which it did – with the 6-5 outcome.

It’s puzzling that the online Legistar file for Sept. 16 containing the McWilliams nomination states that the nomination was “placed on the table for [the council's] consideration at the Sept. 3, 2013 Regular Session.” Reviewing my own notes, The Chronicle’s reporting and the CTN video, I can’t discern anything that happened at the Sept. 3 council meeting that could reasonably be described as placing McWilliams’ nomination on the table for consideration. Certainly councilmembers were asked to vote on Sept. 3 on a nomination that had been put before them on Aug. 19. But at the Sept. 3 meeting, the nomination was withdrawn by Hieftje for consideration by the council. And the Legistar record from Sept. 3 accurately reflects that: “Appointment taken off the table on 9/3/13.”

It’s certainly contemplated by the council’s rules that a nomination and confirmation vote can take place at the same meeting. So asking for the vote on Sept. 16 did not violate the council’s rules. It’s just that the 6-5 outcome on that vote should have been judged as not confirming the appointment of Al McWilliams to the DDA board – because it needed eight votes.

The problem here is not just a technical one. What’s the rationale for a higher voting threshold when a confirmation vote comes at the same meeting as the nomination? Granted, I think part of the rationale is to ensure enough time for an adequate review and vetting of a candidate – which arguably took place in the case of McWilliams’ nomination. But part of the rationale is not peculiar to appointments to boards and commissions. At least part of that general parliamentary principle is this: A higher standard is imposed when less notification has been given to the members of the council (and to the public).

When Hieftje withdrew McWilliams’ nomination at the Sept. 3 meeting, I think councilmembers and the public could have had a reasonable expectation that they’d be notified of an upcoming vote on his confirmation at least one meeting before a confirmation vote was taken. Absent that notification, the threshold for a successful vote should rise – to eight.

In this column, I’ll lay out some of the documentation in the online Legistar files that makes clear that the Sept. 16 nomination really was considered a new, fresh nomination that should have required either an eight-vote majority or a delay on voting until the following meeting.

I also have a suggestion for a remedy that does not involve Miley Cyrus. [Full Story]

McWilliams Confirmed to DDA Board: 6-5

On a 6-5 vote of the Ann Arbor city council, the appointment of Al McWilliams to the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board has been confirmed.

The action came after his nomination had been withdrawn by mayor John Hieftje in the middle of deliberations at the council’s previous meeting, on Sept 3, 2013. At that meeting, the nomination appeared to be in doubt, as two councilmembers were absent – Jane Lumm (Ward 2) and Marcia Higgins (Ward 4). The vote from Higgins was one of the six that was in favor of McWilliams at the Sept. 16, 2013 meeting.

Voting against the appointment of McWilliams were Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Sally Petersen (Ward 2), Jane Lumm (Ward 2), Stephen Kunselman (Ward … [Full Story]

No Council Vote on DDA, AAHC Apointments

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

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

The two other nominations from Aug. 19 were confirmed: Devon Akmon’s appointment to fill a vacancy on the public art commission; and Logan … [Full Story]