Stories indexed with the term ‘ann arbor’

Ward 3 Candidate Forum: CTN Broadcast

The League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area is hosting candidate forums for the Aug. 5, 2014 primary elections, as it does every year for local races.

Julie Grand, Samuel McMullen and Bob Dascola at Ann Arbor's Fourth of July parade.

Julie Grand, Samuel McMullen and Bob Dascola at Ann Arbor’s Fourth of July parade.

This year’s Ward 3 contest features Julie Grand, Bob Dascola and Samuel McMullen.

Grand is a lecturer in public health policy at the University of Michigan Dearborn, and former chair of the city’s park advisory commission. She fell about 60 votes short of prevailing in last year’s primary against Stephen Kunselman.

Dascola owns a downtown barbershop. He filed a successful lawsuit to be placed on the ballot this year.

McMullen is a University of Michigan sophomore, who graduated from Rudolf Steiner High School in Ann Arbor.

The scheduled broadcast start time on CTN is at 9 p.m. today (July 8) and can be viewed as a live video stream in the embedded player below.

CTN has pre-recorded some comments from candidates in all races. [link to CTN video-on-demand for council candidate comments ]

And the League of Women Voters provides written candidate profiles with responses to questions on its website. [Ward 3 profiles]

If you’re not sure whether you’re registered to vote or you’re not sure which ward you live in, Michigan’s Secretary of State website offers an easy way to check.

If you don’t think you’ll be able to make it to the polls on Aug. 5, an application to receive an absentee ballot can be downloaded from the city clerk’s website. [.pdf of absentee ballot application form]

Completed applications can be mailed or hand delivered to the clerk’s office on the second floor of city hall, 301 E. Huron St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104.

The applications can also be scanned and emailed to

Watch the Ward 3 candidate forum below. [Full Story]

Ward 2 Candidate Forum: CTN Broadcast

The League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area is hosting candidate forums for the Aug. 5, 2014 primary elections, as it does every year for local races.

Nancy Kaplan and Kirk Westphal at Ann Arbor's Fourth of July parade.

Nancy Kaplan and Kirk Westphal marches in Ann Arbor’s Fourth of July parade.

The Ward 2 city council Democratic primary forum features current chair of the city planning commission, Kirk Westphal and current trustee on the board of the Ann Arbor District Library board, Nancy Kaplan.

The Ward 2 seat does not have an incumbent this year, because Sally Petersen is running for mayor, instead of seeking re-election to another two-year term on the city council.

The scheduled broadcast start time on CTN is at 8 p.m. today (July 8) and can be viewed as a live video stream in the embedded player below.

CTN has pre-recorded some comments from candidates in all races. [link to CTN video-on-demand for council candidate comments ]

And the League of Women Voters provides written candidate profiles with responses to questions on its website. [Ward 2 profiles]

If you’re not sure whether you’re registered to vote or you’re not sure which ward you live in, Michigan’s Secretary of State website offers an easy way to check.

If you don’t think you’ll be able to make it to the polls on Aug. 5, an application to receive an absentee ballot can be downloaded from the city clerk’s website. [.pdf of absentee ballot application form] Completed applications can be mailed or hand delivered to the clerk’s office on the second floor of city hall, 301 E. Huron St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104. The applications can also be scanned and emailed to

Watch the Ward 2 candidate forum below. The Ward 3 candidate forum will follow at 9 p.m. [Full Story]

Kelly Submits Petitions for Mayoral Bid

Bryan Kelly has submitted petitions to qualify on the ballot as a candidate for mayor of Ann Arbor in the Nov. 4, 2014 general election. According to city clerk’s staff, Kelly submitted signatures on July 7. They have not yet been validated.

As a candidate not affiliated with a political party (i.e., an independent candidate), he has until July 17 to collect at least 50 valid signatures from each of the city’s five wards. Kelly took the petitions out on June 3, 2014.

Kelly is the only potential candidate so far who could oppose the winner of the Aug. 5 Democratic primary, which features four sitting city councilmembers: Sabra Briere, Sally Petersen, Christopher Taylor and Stephen Kunselman. No Republicans took out nominating petitions.

Updated July 9: According to the city clerk’s office, an insufficient number of valid signatures was submitted by Kelly and he will need to submit supplemental signatures in order to qualify for the ballot.

Updated July 15: According to the city clerk’s office, as of 9 a.m. this morning, Kelly had achieved enough signatures in Wards 1, 4 and 5, but staff were still processing supplemental signatures from Wards 2 and 3.

[Full Story]

Column: Mayoral Folk, Easy Listening

Four candidates are competing in Ann Arbor’s Democratic mayoral primary on Aug. 5 – all of them currently members of the city council: Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Sally Petersen (Ward 2), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3).


Four quotes from four candidates for mayor in the Ann Arbor Democratic primary.

The fact that all of the primary candidates are current city councilmembers does not in my view reflect positively on Ann Arbor. In a city that prides itself for its diversity, are there really no others beyond established political personalities who’d be willing to serve the community as mayor?

Putting aside that lament, the upside is that all four candidates have been recently vetted by the local electorate. And council service can be a useful common denominator for contrasting the four candidates. Over the last few weeks, they have appeared at several forums, fielding questions in a variety of formats. And the candidates have attempted to contrast themselves with each other. But on occasion that contrast has been hard to hear – because it has been oblique or offered quickly in passing.

The Chronicle has broadcast live audio from three candidate events, hosted by the Ann Arbor Democratic Party, Literati Bookstore and the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber. We wanted to provide that service, because those events would otherwise have been inaccessible – except for those physically present. And even those who were physically present might want to check their recollections against the actual audio recordings.

During these forums, it has been interesting for me to listen to the range of ways that candidates have tried to distinguish themselves from the others. I think in some cases those attempts have not been necessarily conscious and deliberate. And in some cases those attempts rely on lumping other candidates together.

Based on these candidate forums, here’s how I see the most salient aspects of the mayoral campaign strategies – listed in the order that candidates announced their intention to run.

Stephen Kunselman is asking voters to cast their ballots for him the person: A vote for Kunselman is a vote for integrity and dignity, and for someone who was born and raised here.

Christopher Taylor is inviting voters to identify him with the city of Ann Arbor itself in broad terms: If you think Ann Arbor is basically a great place, on the right track, and you’d like it to stay on track, then vote for Taylor.

Sabra Briere is asking voters to notice that she has accurate knowledge of the issues: If you want a mayor who is willing to work down in the weeds on policy questions, and get something done based on analysis of those policy questions, vote for Briere.

Sally Petersen has absolutely pounded the theme of economic development in her campaign messaging: If you want a mayor who will develop a strategy to pay for all the things people say they want, and won’t get distracted from that plan by factional squabbles on the council, vote for Petersen.

Those summaries are a bit one-dimensional. And I’m sure that the candidates themselves would argue that there is much more to their campaigns than that. And there is, of course. But I’d like to share in a bit more detail how I arrived at those summaries. [Full Story]

2014 Calendar of Ann Arbor Mayoral Forums

Ann Arbor mayoral candidate Sally Petersen has included in her most recent campaign email a list of forums that will be taking place, leading up to the Aug. 5, 2014 Democratic primary vote.

Ann Arbor Elections Update

The deadline for filing sufficient petition signatures to qualify for the Aug. 5, 2014 ballot in Ann Arbor city council and mayoral primary elections is April 22. So this is the last weekend to collect signatures. 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.

The city’s offices closed today at noon for the holiday weekend.

Here’s a quick status report as of noon April 18 on who’s taken out petitions, who’s filed signatures, and whether they’ve been verified by the city clerk’s staff. All candidates who have taken out petitions and are eligible are Democrats.


  • Sabra Briere: petitions filed
  • Sally Petersen: petitions filed
  • Christopher Taylor: … [Full Story]

Lawsuit Filed on City Footing Drain Program

A lawsuit has now been filed in Washtenaw County’s 22nd Circuit Court challenging the legal foundation of the city of Ann Arbor’s footing drain disconnection (FDD) ordinance.

A lawsuit has been filed in the 22nd circuit court challenging the constitutionality of the city of Ann Arbor's footing drain disconnection program.

A lawsuit has been filed in the 22nd Circuit Court challenging the constitutionality of the city of Ann Arbor’s footing drain disconnection program. (Illustration by The Chronicle.)

The ordinance was enacted in 2001. It establishes a program under which property owners can be required to disconnect their footing drains from the sanitary sewer system. Its intent is to diminish the risk of sanitary overflows into the Huron River and of sanitary sewage backups in homeowners’ basements.

In connection with that lawsuit, a motion for a preliminary injunction has also been filed, asking that the court order the city immediately to stop enforcement of its ordinance.

[FDDP-Complaint-Feb.27.2014-OCR] [FDDP-Motion-Feb.27.2014-OCR]

In September 2012, the Ann Arbor city council already took action partially to suspend the FDD program. That council decision of nearly 18 months ago came not in response to a formal legal action, but rather coincided with complaints from residents in the southeastern part of the city.

Then about a year ago, in February 2013, the city authorized a contract with an engineering firm to undertake a sanitary sewer wet weather evaluation (SSWWE) – in part to determine the impact of the FDD program to date. At a public meeting on the SSWWE held two weeks ago, on Feb. 6, 2014, the future status of the FDD program was portrayed as dubious: Even if the SSWWE study eventually identified an ongoing risk of sewage backups in Ann Arbor basements, the FDD would probably not continue “as is.”

The lawsuit claims the city’s FDD ordinance violates: (1) the Michigan state law setting forth the requirements for a government to take private property for public use; (2) the Michigan state constitutional prohibition against taking private property for public use without just compensation; (3) the corresponding U.S. constitutional prohibition against taking private property, which is a Fifth Amendment claim; and (4) the prohibition against violating the federally protected rights of others, which is a claim under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983.

The lawsuit asks that the court declare the FDD ordinance is “unconstitutional, on its face and as implemented.”

Plaintiffs in the case are Ann Arbor residents John Boyer, Mary Jean Raab and Anita Yu. They are represented by attorneys Dan O’Brien, who’s chair of the litigation department at Woods Oviatt Gilman in Rochester, New York; Irvin Mermelstein, a local Ann Arbor attorney in private practice; and Mark Koroi, a Plymouth attorney.

Background leading up to the filing, as well as a description of the filing, has been tracked on Mermelstein is the resident agent for a2underwater, LLC.

The lawsuit was filed on Feb. 27, 2014. It has been assigned to judge Donald Shelton.

Some of the legal theories on which the lawsuit is based have already surfaced in correspondence that’s become public. And some aspects of the city’s potential defense against a lawsuit may have already been described publicly by assistant city attorney Abigail Elias. That description came at a recent meeting of a citizens advisory committee that is supposed to make a recommendation sometime in the summer of 2014 on the future of the FDD program. For additional background on the topic of the footing drain disconnection program, see Chronicle coverage: “Backups: Lawyers, Sewers, Pumps.” [Full Story]

March 3, 2014: Ann Arbor Council Preview

The council’s first regular meeting in March will include several items of business leftover from previous meetings, including one resolution on affordable housing, an ordinance on outdoor smoking, and several matters related to public art.

Screenshot of Legistar – the city of Ann Arbor online agenda management system. Image links to the next meeting agenda.

Screenshot of Legistar – the city of Ann Arbor’s online agenda management system. Image links to the March 3, 2014 meeting agenda.

New to the agenda are several items related to non-motorized issues, most prominently a funding request to support the activity of an already-established task force on pedestrian safety and access.

The council will also be asked to fund requests related to city parks and other city facilities like city hall and the airport. Eighteen new vehicles will also be added to the city’s fleet, contingent on council action on March 3.

The council will also consider a resolution that urges full funding of the state of Michigan’s fire protection grant program – for cities like Ann Arbor that host state-owned facilities like the University of Michigan.

In somewhat more detail, one public art issue, embodied in two different resolutions, was postponed from the council’s Feb. 18, 2014 meeting, when councilmembers could not agree on an approach to transferring money out of the public art fund back to the funds from which the money was originally drawn. The specific point dividing the council was not so much the transfer of money but rather a plan to fund the new approach to public art – after the council eliminated the Percent for Art funding mechanism last year.

Updated March 1, 2014: The first resolution has been altered for consideration on March 3 so that it focuses exclusively on the public art program transition issue. The second resolution incorporates changes to reflect the council’s deliberations on Feb. 18: It transfers a total of $943,005 of Percent for Art money to its funds of origin, an amount that defunds the art project at Argo Cascades, but keeps funding for the Coleman Jewett memorial and for a project called Canoe Imagine Art.  [public art resolution (1) for consideration on March 3, 2014] [public art resolution (2) for consideration on March 3, 2014]

That disagreement over funding of the newly created program is also related to another public art item on the agenda – a six-month contract extension for the city’s part-time public art administrator. The item first appeared on the council’s Jan. 21 agenda, but the council postponed that vote until Feb. 3, when it was defeated. On Feb. 18 it was then brought back for reconsideration, but immediately postponed until the March 3 meeting.

Also postponed from Feb. 18 is an item that would direct the city administrator to prepare for the council’s approval a budget resolution regarding affordable housing. The resolution would allocate $600,000 from the city’s affordable housing trust fund to support the Ann Arbor housing commission’s plan to renovate its properties. That allocation would be contingent on the closing of the sale of the former Y lot to Dennis Dahlmann, as the net proceeds of that sale are to be deposited into the city’s affordable housing trust fund.

Postponed from the Feb. 3 meeting was the first reading of an ordinance that would regulate smoking outside of public buildings and also potentially in areas of some city parks. Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5), sponsor of the new proposed local law, appeared before the park advisory commission at its Feb. 25 meeting to brief commissioners on the proposal and solicit feedback.

New items on the March 3 agenda include a funding proposal for the pedestrian safety and access task force established by the city council late last year, with members appointed in late January. The $122,250 item includes a $77,500 contract for facilitation services from Project Innovations. That’s the same firm contracted for similar work in connection with the city’s sanitary sewer wet weather evaluation – which is expected to conclude in the summer of 2014.

Other issues on the March 3 agenda with a non-motorized connection are three stretches of sidewalk. In the context of sanitary sewer design work that Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber Inc. is being hired to do, two sidewalks are included: a stretch along Barton Drive, and a stretch along Scio Church Road. The council will also be asked to pay for the construction of a stretch of sidewalk along Ann Arbor-Saline Road near the I-94 bridge – as part of a road reconstruction project that the Michigan Dept. of Transportation is handling.

Another new item is a resolution that Jack Eaton (Ward 4) had announced at the council’s Feb. 18 meeting that he’d be bringing forward. It would waive the attorney-client privilege on a staff memo about laws governing the assessment of homes. The resolution indicates that the memo addresses the effect that reducing the assessment for one year would have on the property tax assessment for the subsequent year, based on action by the Board of Review and/or the Michigan Tax Tribunal.

In other action, the council will be asked on March 3 to approve the purchase from Signature Ford of 18 new vehicles – most of them for use by the Ann Arbor police department. Total cost of the purchase is $457,393.

City parks factor into three agenda items: (1) a resolution to establish an urban park on part of the surface level of the Library Lane underground parking structure; (2) a paving contract for the replacement of basketball and tennis courts at Clinton Park; and (3) a grant application to the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources Grants Management (MDNRGM) to support a universal access playground at Gallup Park. The Rotary Club has already pledged $250,000 toward such a playground.

The city hall (Larcom Building) is featured in two agenda items – to pay $160,923 for a secondary chiller unit and $28,469 for new light fixtures. An amendment to an agreement with MDOT for an already-completed fence project at the Ann Arbor municipal airport also appears on the agenda, and will cost the city $425.

After authorizing significant equipment purchases to support water main repair activity at its Feb. 18 meeting, the council will be asked to approve two additional items related to water main repair. One item is a $44,702 emergency purchase order to buy more aggregate material used for backfilling water main repairs. A second item authorizes an emergency purchase order for repairing and making a new connection for the water main at 1214 S. University. In both cases, the emergency purchase orders were authorized by the city administrator, and the work was done.

Street closures for two events are on the council’s March 3 agenda: Take Back the Night and the Monroe Street Fair.

Also on the agenda is a resolution that would encourage Gov. Rick Snyder, state senator Rebekah Warren, and state representatives Jeff Irwin and Adam Zemke to explore creative ways to fund the state’s fire protection grant program for municipalities like Ann Arbor, which host state institutions. In the last three years, the program has been only 40-55% funded.

This article includes a more detailed preview of many of these agenda items. More details on other agenda items are available on the city’s online Legistar system. The meeting proceedings can be followed Monday evening live on Channel 16, streamed online by Community Television Network starting at 7 p.m. [Full Story]

A2: Holiday Gifts

The Damn Arbor blog has posted a gift-giving guide premised on a positive answer to this question: “Do you want to make sure the money you spend this season stays in the community?”  The post continues, “… we have worked tirelessly to assemble an outstanding list of locally made gifts.” Items range from sausage to bourbon to “Mit Lit.” [Source]

Hieftje Files Veto of Crosswalk Law Repeal

At 3:41 p.m. on Dec. 9, 2013, Ann Arbor mayor John Hieftje filed the veto of a revision to the city’s crosswalk ordinance that the city council had approved at its Dec. 2, 2013 meeting.

The council had approved the significant amendment to the existing law on a 6-4 vote. The amendment would have eliminated the requirement that motorists extend the right-of-way to pedestrians at the curb or curb line – in addition to those within a crosswalk. It would have left in place the requirement that motorists stop, not just yield to pedestrians within a crosswalk.

As a result of Hieftje’s veto, the law will continue to read as follows:
10:148. Pedestrians crossing streets

(a) When traffic-control signals are not … [Full Story]

Column: Ann Arbor’s Brand of Participation

An Ann Arbor city council budget planning session is scheduled to take place on Monday, Dec. 9, starting sometime around 4 p.m.

CAnn Arbor Brand

Illustration by The Chronicle, based on bar chart in a preliminary draft report of a fall 2013 National Citizens Survey conducted among Ann Arbor residents.

Councilmembers have been asked to prepare for the session by thinking about Ann Arbor’s “brand.” Specifically, they’ve been asked to reflect on what “differentiates Ann Arbor from other communities in Michigan” and what “makes Ann Arbor a truly special community to live, work and play.”

Councilmembers will be asked to spend about five minutes each at the start of the session talking about how they see the Ann Arbor “brand.”

The facilitator for the session is Julia Novak of the Novak Consulting Group. In advance of last year’s session, she asked councilmembers to prepare by formulating thoughts that could be summarized as “What I Believe.

Last year’s homework assignment was, I think, easy compared to this year’s. And I do not envy councilmembers this chore. It sounds hard. I wouldn’t know where to begin. Anytime somebody starts talking about “brands” – especially a brand for a city – my first thought is: “Why, you sound like a charlatan standing there talking to me; why don’t you go off and make something useful, then come back and tell me all about that very useful thing you made instead of blathering on about brands.”

And so, because I am human, and every bit as lazy and ill-tempered as the rest of you, I will not get down to the business of completing the chore … before bitterly lamenting the nature of the chore itself (with all due respect to Julia Novak). I do hereby bitterly lament the branding chore. But I’ll take a shot.

That shot includes quoting a five-year-old interview.

But before delving into the dusty archives, I want to have a look at the preliminary results of a survey that was conducted recently among residents. I think it shows that our self-image as a community valuing public participation is not especially well-founded. So that’s not our brand. Not right now, anyway. [Full Story]

Election Day: August 6, 2013

As we have for the past few years, The Chronicle will be touring Ann Arbor polling stations on Election Day and providing updates throughout the day. Polls are open today from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Members of one of the Pioneer High School marching band drum lines practiced on the evening before Election Day near the yellow sign indicating that no campaigning is allowed beyond that point. Pioneer High serves at the polling location for Precincts 4 & 8 in Ward 4.

Members of one of the Pioneer High School marching band drum lines practiced on the evening before Election Day. Already in place was the yellow sign indicating that no campaigning is allowed beyond that point. Pioneer High serves at the polling location for Precincts 4 & 8 in Ward 4. (Photo illustration by The Chronicle.)

This year voters in the primary will be confronted with a single issue – a city council race. Ann Arbor city council seats have contested Democratic primaries in just two of the five wards. No Republican candidates are on the ballot.

Voters in Ward 3 will choose between incumbent Stephen Kunselman and Julie Grand. In Ward 4, the choice is between incumbent Marcia Higgins and Jack Eaton.

For all of you procrastinators who are still researching the candidates, here’s a link to Chronicle coverage of the Democratic primary races for Ann Arbor city council this year.

Not sure where to vote? To find your polling place and view a sample ballot for your precinct, visit the Secretary of State’s website.

Check back here throughout the day for briefs filed from the field, or add a comment with your own Election Day observations.  [Full Story]

A2: Marijuana

As activists seek decriminalization of marijuana in Michigan, Metro Times looks at the city of Ann Arbor, where voters in 1974 passed a revision to the city charter that decriminalized marijuana by making possession of less than 2 ounces a civil infraction. The article quotes state Rep. Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor, who has introduced a bill to decriminalize marijuana statewide: “The decriminalization that the community enacted decades ago, I think is a good example of how a local community can address these issues in a more reasonable and successful way. Marijuana is in communities all over Michigan and governments are completely impotent in addressing that.” [Source]

A2: Promotional Video

Realtor Rob Ewing has posted a 10-minute promotional video – “Discover Ann Arbor” – featuring scenes of local parks, the University of Michigan campus, downtown restaurants, and arts & cultural venues, as the backdrop to interviews about Ann Arbor with local community leaders, including David Canter, Ken Fischer, Susan Pollay, and several others. [Source]

Ann Arbor Parks Tax Renewal Passes

Renewal of the park maintenance and capital improvements millage was overwhelmingly approved by Ann Arbor voters on Nov. 6, with 34,959 voters (68.44%) casting yes votes compared with 16,123 (31.56%) voting against it.

The millage was approved by a majority of voters in every precinct in the city, with the strongest support coming from Ward 1, Precinct 3, where 82.3% of voters supported the parks tax.  Weakest support for the parks tax citywide came in Ward 2, Precinct 2 where 53.6% of voters said yes.

The current 1.1 mill tax expires this year. The renewal runs from 2013-2018 and will raise about $4.9 million next year. The recommended allocation of revenues is 70% for park maintenance activities, and 30% for park capital improvement projects. Of … [Full Story]

Privatizing Public Services: A Good Thing?

A recent forum on privatization, organized by the local League of Women Voters, brought together four elected officials and one former administrator to share their experiences and opinions on the issue.

Bob Guenzel, Sabra Briere

Former Washtenaw County administrator Bob Guenzel and Ann Arbor city councilmember Sabra Briere (Ward 1) were among five panelists at a Feb. 27 forum on privatization. The event was organized by the League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor area and held at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library. (Photos by the writer.)

The membership of the national League of Women Voters is studying the issue of privatization, with the eventual goal of developing a position statement, based in part on feedback from local leagues. Susan Greenberg, who moderated the Feb. 27 panel in Ann Arbor, said they’ll be looking at the factors that governments use to determine which services are privatized, the policy issues that are considered, how privatization impacts a community, and what strategies are used to ensure transparency and accountability.

Panelists all had experience in public sector leadership: Lois Richardson, Ypsilanti city councilmember and mayor pro tem; Bob Guenzel, former Washtenaw County administrator; Sabra Briere, Ann Arbor city councilmember; Andy Fanta, Ypsilanti public schools board member; and Susan Baskett, Ann Arbor public schools board member.

Panelists gave examples of how privatization is being used locally – such as curbside recycling in Ann Arbor and garbage pick-up in Ypsilanti – but generally expressed caution about the practice. Fanta was less circumspect, describing privatization as capitalism eating its entrails. [All of the four elected officials are Democrats.]

The forum also included time for questions from the audience. Topics ranged from the impact of Proposal A – which shifted control of funding for K-12 schools from local communities to the state – to comments about national funding priorities.

The event was co-sponsored by the Ann Arbor alumnae chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, and held at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library. A videotape of the panel will be posted on the AADL website. [Full Story]

Medical Marijuana Licenses Up to Council

At its Jan. 31, 2012 meeting, Ann Arbor’s medical marijuana licensing board voted to recommend awarding 10 licenses for dispensaries – the same number that had submitted applications. Two of the license awards were recommended conditionally. Treecity Health Collective (1712 S. State St.) would need to move to a differently zoned district, and Greenbee Collective (401 S. Maple St.) would need to provide for adequate parking. The board also settled on some recommended changes to the city’s medical marijuana licensing ordinance.

Ann Arbor medical marijuana licensing board

Ann Arbor medical marijuana licensing board at its Jan. 31, 2012 meeting. Left to right: Sabra Briere, Jim Kenyon, Patricia O’Rorke, John Rosevear and Gene Ragland. (Photos by the writer.)

Both issues – the award of the licenses and the changes to the ordinance – will be up to the city council to decide. The licensing board’s recommendation and report had been due to the city council by Jan. 31, according to the council resolution passed in conjunction with last year’s enactment of the licensing ordinance. But at the city council’s Jan. 23, 2012 meeting, Ward 1 representative Sabra Briere gave her colleagues a heads up that the medical marijuana licensing board would be submitting its recommendations in early February instead.

The legislation enacted by the council on June 20, 2011 included provisions for licenses and zoning requirements. The zoning requirements played a role in the recommendation to award one of the 10 licenses conditionally. Treecity is located in a district zoned for office use, which does not permit medical marijuana dispensaries.

On Jan. 25, 2012, the city’s zoning board of appeals (ZBA) turned down Treecity’s appeal of the city’s decision to deny Treecity’s application for a zoning compliance permit – a necessary component of a license application. At the same meeting, the ZBA granted the same kind of appeal to another dispensary – Green Planet (700 Tappan St.).

The tension between the board’s work and the city attorney’s office is reflected in the fact that even as the board recommended the conditional award of a license to Treecity, the city attorney has served a lawsuit against the dispensary.

The tension was also reflected during the meeting itself, as assistant city attorney Kristen Larcom reminded the board that their purview, according to the city’s ordinance, is [emphasis Larcom's] to “send to City Council a proposed resolution recommending either approval or rejection of each complete license application.”

In the city’s view, Treecity’s application is not complete, because the city has denied a zoning compliance permit to the dispensary. However the board appeared to rely on the subsequent sentence of the ordinance: “A recommended resolution may set conditions for approval.”

Also at its Jan. 31 meeting, the licensing board recommended that the initial licensing fee be established at $1,100 with the annual renewal fee set at $350. [Full Story]

Board Recommends 10 Marijuana Licenses

At its Jan. 31, 2012 meeting, Ann Arbor’s medical marijuana licensing board voted to recommend licenses for 10 medical marijuana dispensaries located in the city. A decision on the award of the licenses will now be considered by the Ann Arbor city council.

Businesses recommended for a license under Ann Arbor’s local ordinance are: (1) Green Planet, 700 Tappan St.; (2) Treecity Health Collective, 1712 S. State St.; (3) Ann Arbor Health Collective, 2350 E. Stadium Blvd.; (4) OM of Medicine, 112 S. Main St.; (5) People’s Choice, 2245 W. Liberty St.; (6) Greenbee Collective, 401 S. Maple St.; (7) Ann Arbor Wellness Collective, 321 E. Liberty St.; (8) MedMarx at Arborside, 1818 Packard St.; (9) Medical Grass Station, 325 W. … [Full Story]

Medical Marijuana Board Straw Poll: Yes

On Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011, the medical marijuana licensing board in Ann Arbor, Mich., took something like a straw poll on a recommendation that the city award its first dispensary license – to MedMarx at Arborside Compassion, located at 1818 Packard St.

The form of the poll strongly resembled a vote by the board to recommend the dispensary for a license, leading some observers to conclude that the recommendation had been made. But a subsequent email from board member Sabra Briere indicated the board had voted that it “would have recommended MedMarx for a license, if they were making recommendations at that meeting.” Once the board takes a formal vote on the recommendations that it wants to make to the city council, the city council will still need to vote as well, in order for the license to be awarded.

Rosevear, Ragland, Kenyon

Ann Arbor medical marijuana licensing board members (left to right): John Rosevear, Gene Ragland and James Kenyon. They're perusing a letter from MedMarx at Arborside Compassion to the city of Ann Arbor, stating the dispensary's position on its compliance with the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act. (Photos by the writer.)

Ann Arbor’s medical marijuana licensing board was established as part of an ordinance regulating licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries, enacted by the city council on June 20, 2011.

The licensing ordinance was enacted at the same time as a zoning ordinance, which regulates where such businesses can be located in the city. The two pieces of legislation were enacted after more than a year of consideration and deliberations by members of the city council.

On Wednesday, the board considered seven out of a total of 10 license applications that had been submitted to the city. The remaining three are for businesses located in areas not zoned for medical marijuana businesses. However, at least two of those intend to ask for a review of the city’s decision to deny a zoning compliance permit (required as part of the license application) by the city’s zoning board of appeals (ZBA).

Besides the one application on which the board voted, four of the other six applications were determined to have met the requirement demonstrating that they were in operation before the council enacted a moratorium. That moratorium was established on Aug. 5, 2010 and prohibited establishment of any additional medical marijuana businesses in the city.

The board’s work on Nov. 30 came as attitudes on medical marijuana nationally, at the state level and locally are in flux. Nov. 30 was the same day that governors from the states of Washington and Rhode Island signed a petition appealing to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana has a drug having medical uses.

And the licensing board meeting came at the conclusion of a series of day-long seminars in different Michigan cities given on Nov. 16, 17, 29, and 30 by staff of Michigan State Attorney General Bill Schuette on how to enforce the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act. The seminars included the case law that has evolved – including the McQueen case, in which a Michigan court of appeals found that at least one business model for operating a dispensary is not consistent with the MMMA.

According to a report from The Saginaw News, Schuette’s “Clearing the Air” seminars were closed to the press. The materials provided at the seminars include a range of legal tools the attorney general believes can be used to prevent medical marijuana dispensaries from doing business. One of those tools is to apply laws on public nuisances to such businesses.

The city of Ann Arbor has sent cease-and-desist letters to medical marijuana dispensaries in the city threatening to take action against them as public nuisances. Cease-and-desist letters were received by a business as recently as Nov. 8. [.pdf of letter to zoning-non-conformant business][.pdf of letter to zoning-conformant business]

During public commentary at the licensing board meeting, local attorney Dennis Hayes noted a disconnect between (1) letters sent by Ann Arbor city attorney Stephen Postema to businesses threatening to shut them down, and (2) a licensing board that is implementing the new city ordinance on allocating licenses to medical marijuana businesses. Hayes described the situation as the “right hand doing something very different from the left hand.” Hayes encouraged the licensing board to move its “right foot to drag the left foot along.”

The board’s next scheduled meeting is Dec. 14 at 4 p.m. [Full Story]

Election Day: November 2011

It’s Election Day. Voters in the Ann Arbor Public Schools district have a choice of six candidates to fill two open seats on the AAPS board of trustees. And Ann Arbor city residents in four of five wards will have a choice about their representation on the 11-member city council.

Sign at Angell Elementary School

A sign directing voters at Angell Elementary School, where two precincts for Ann Arbor's Ward 2 are located. As of 7:05 a.m., five voters had arrived. It's unlikely the one-voter-per-minute pace will continue, but poll workers expect a higher turnout than the 68 people who voted here in the August primary.

If you’re still researching the candidates for the school board or for the city council, check out Chronicle coverage of the candidate forums.

City of Ann Arbor voters will also be presented with three ballot proposals, two of them involving approval of taxes for street and sidewalk repair. Proposal 1 would renew an existing street repair property tax at a rate of 2 mills. [A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of a property's taxable value.] Assuming Proposal 1 is approved, Proposal 2 would levy an additional 0.125 mills – for sidewalk repair. If Proposal 2 is approved by voters, the city would not start a new 5-year inspection cycle. Under that inspection program, property owners are formally notified that sidewalks adjacent to their property need repair and then must undertake those repairs themselves.

Attitudes of city council challengers towards the sidewalk millage are negative. Some current city councilmembers have offered only reluctant support for the sidewalk millage or else have a complete lack of a position on the question. Mayor John Hieftje, who is not up for re-election this year, has clearly stated his lack of a position on the sidewalk millage.

Proposal 3 is less controversial, enjoying solid support among councilmembers and challengers. It would change the makeup of the retirement system’s board of trustees so that fewer beneficiaries of the system are included on the board.

Polls are open today from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. A good place to get partial unofficial results (that are as close to official as you can get) is the Washtenaw County clerk’s office election results website.

To find your polling place, type in an address on the My Property page of the city of Ann Arbor’s website, and click on the Voter tab.

The Chronicle has established somewhat of an Election Day tradition: We tour as many precinct locations as we can through the day and file mini-reports from the polls. So we’re off – check back throughout the day for updates, appended after the jump. Add your own observations from the polls in the comments. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor to Vote on Police Union Contract

On the Ann Arbor city council’s agenda for its Monday, Sept. 19 meeting is an item to approve a new contract with the city’s police officers union, based on an agreement mandated by an arbitration panel’s award signed on Sept. 14, 2011.

The arbitration panel worked through the binding arbitration procedure for labor disputes in police and fire departments, which in Michigan is governed by Act 312 of 1969.

The new contract is retroactive for the period from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2013. In an email to The Chronicle, Tom Crawford, the city’s CFO, wrote that the panel’s determination does not include any liability for the city dating back to the start of the contract.

Highlights of the new deal include … [Full Story]

Initial Indicator: Incumbents Likely to Win

Based just on totals from absent voter count boards, it looks likely that incumbents in three Ann Arbor city wards will win the Democratic Party’s nomination for city council representative, and to appear on the ballot in November.

In Ward 2, Stephen Rapundalo received 232 absentee votes (60%) compared with Tim Hull’s 155. In Ward 3, Stephen Kunselman received 159 absentee votes (56%) compared to 120 and 7 for Ingrid Ault and Marwan Issa, respectively. And in Ward 5, Mike Anglin received 298 absentee votes (72%), compared with Neal Elyakin’s 117.

Absent voter count board totals reflect absentee voting totals across all precincts in the ward. Those totals are thus not as susceptible to reflecting an advantage a candidate might enjoy that … [Full Story]

Ward 5 Initial Result

In the city council Democratic primary race for Ward 5, initial combined results from precincts 5-4 and 5-5 show incumbent Mike Anglin with 163 votes, compared to 91 for challenger Neal Elaykin.

Stuart Berry received 2 votes – he was the only choice on the Republican side of the ballot.

O’Dell Hired as New UM Police Chief

Greg O’Dell, former deputy police chief for Ann Arbor, has been hired as the University of Michigan’s executive director for the Department of Public Safety and the university’s chief of police. He’ll start the job on Aug. 22.

O’Dell, an Ann Arbor resident, currently is chief of police and executive director of public safety at Eastern Michigan University. He holds a juris doctorate degree from the University of Toledo College of Law and a bachelor’s degree from EMU. He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy and the EMU school for police staff and command, according to a UM press release.

O’Dell will oversee a department that employs 80 people, including 55 sworn police officers. The campus area faces heightened security in the wake … [Full Story]

Loan Request Pulled for Packard Square

Washtenaw County board of commissioners chair’s briefing (May 24, 2011): Developers for the Packard Square project in Ann Arbor have decided not to apply for a state loan that had spurred debate among county commissioners. The board was told of the decision at a May 24 agenda briefing.

At their meeting last week on May 18, Washtenaw County commissioners had postponed action on a request to approve a $1 million loan application to the state Dept. of Environmental Quality for brownfield cleanup at the former Georgetown Mall site. Developers were asking to use the county’s full faith and credit as a guarantee for the loan – a request that caused concern over entering into a relationship with a private developer that might pose a financial risk for the county.

The board was expected to take up the request again at their June 1 meeting, along with consideration of a broader public-private investment policy they’re developing, which was also postponed from the May 18 meeting. But now that there’s no loan in play, commissioners seemed inclined to defer action on the policy as well, giving the county’s attorney more time to analyze the issue.

Other items previewed from the June 1 agenda include: (1) five drain projects in the city of Ann Arbor that require bonds backed by the county’s full faith and credit, totaling $6.54 million; (2) acceptance of $455,000 in federal stimulus funds for the county’s weatherization program, which has already received over $4 million in grants over the past three years, and (3) approval of a new public health medical director. The current director, Diana Torres-Burgos, recently announced her resignation – she’ll be leaving her job at the end of June. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Council Tables Water Main Study

At its May 16, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council tabled a $208,984 contract with AECOM for a study of its water distribution system. The money for the study, which dates from a 2007 request for proposals (RFP), was allocated in the fiscal year 2011 budget of the city’s water fund. The level of service (LOS) study to be done by AECOM will recommend a sustainable level of service for the city’s water distribution system, and determine how much investment it would take to achieve that level. The study would also help the city decide, for example, which water mains should be replaced first.

The item was tabled for essentially two reasons. First, councilmembers expressed concern about the general issue of using consultants to communicate with residents, instead of relying on city staff. Second, councilmembers had concerns about the cost of the study, and they were inclined to delay action on all budget-related issues, given their plan to delay action on the FY 2012 budget, which was achieved through a recess of the meeting until Monday, May 23. When the meeting continues at that time, the water distribution system study can be taken off the table for deliberation and a vote.

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

Ann Arbor Applies for Greenbelt Matches

At its Feb. 7, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council voted to approve applications to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRLPP) for matching grant funds for the purchase of development rights on two properties: 110 acres on the Lindemann-Weidmayer farm in Lodi Township, and 92 acres on the Grosshans farm in Superior Township.

The city’s cost would be paid out of the greenbelt millage funds. The federal match would be up to 50% of the appraised fair market value of the development rights, up to a maximum of $5,000 per acre. The greenbelt advisory commission recommended at its Dec. 8, 2010 meeting that the city make the applications to the FRLPP.

This brief was filed from the boardroom in the Washtenaw County administration building, where the council is meeting due to renovations in the city hall building. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Marijuana Law Still Stalled

At its Feb. 7, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council considered for a third fourth time a proposal on a set of licensing requirements for medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities in the city. And again the council voted to postpone its initial vote on the licensing scheme, after undertaking several amendments during lengthy deliberations.

The vote that was postponed is the first of two votes the council must take on any new ordinance it enacts. At its meetings over the last few months, the council has heard extensive public commentary on medical marijuana, but that commentary does not constitute a formal public hearing, which will be held at the same meeting when the council votes on final approval of the licensing, provided it eventually gives initial approval to the licensing system.

At its Oct. 18, 2010 meeting, the  council gave its initial approval to a set of zoning regulations for medical marijuana businesses, but it has not yet given its final approval to those regulations. The council’s strategy is to bring licensing and zoning forward at the same time for a final vote.

The context for development of zoning regulations was set at the council’s Aug. 5, 2010 meeting, when councilmembers voted to impose a moratorium on the use of property in the city for medical marijuana dispensaries or cultivation facilities. Subsequently, the city attorney’s office also began working on a licensing system, which the council first considered at its Jan. 3, 2010 meeting.

At its Jan. 3 meeting, the council heavily amended the licensing proposal. Among the key amendments made at that meeting was one that stripped “home occupation” businesses out of the proposal. At the Jan. 3 meeting, the council also increased the cap on the total number of licenses available to 20 for dispensaries and 10 for cultivation facilities. Another major amendment made on Jan. 3 was the creation of a board to govern the issuance of licenses. However, the council delayed voting on the first reading of the proposal. [.pdf of licensing ordinance language at the start of the Feb. 7, 2011 meeting]

At its Jan. 18 meeting, the council was poised to undertake further amendments to the licensing proposal, including many that concerned limiting the amount of information that is required to be divulged by those associated with license applications. However, the council did not amend the proposal further at that meeting.

The moratorium on additional facilities in the city to be used as medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities was extended by the council at its Jan. 18 meeting to go  through March 31, 2011.

This brief was filed from the boardroom in the Washtenaw County administration building, where the council is meeting due to renovations in the city hall building. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Fourth of July Parade 2010


Charlie White and Meryl Davis, University of Michigan students and Olympic silver medalists in ice dance figure skating.

Charlie White and Meryl Davis, University of Michigan students and Olympic silver medalists in ice dance figure skating. They were the grand marshals of the parade.

Hope everyone enjoyed the Fourth of July Parade in downtown Ann Arbor on Sunday morning. More Chronicle photos on Flickr: [link]

Sidewalk Concrete Connects to Past

Dan McConnell with a prized piece of concrete. What's so special about it?

Dan McConnell with a prized piece of concrete. What's so special about it?

When The Chronicle spots a single chunk of concrete lying lonesome on the grass, we’ll generally swing back around for a closer look. Around Eberwhite is an area where we’d noticed sidewalk replacement in progress on a neighborhood scale over the last couple of days, but the busted up slabs had generally been stacked up and carted off. Why was this lonely chunk still sitting there? It was as if someone had set it aside as something extra special. [Full Story]