Stories indexed with the term ‘board meeting’

AAATA: Aug. 21 Meeting Location Change

The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board has announced that it will hold its Aug. 21, 2014 regular board meeting at the AAATA headquarters at 2700 South Industrial Highway. The typical meeting location is the downtown building of the Ann Arbor District Library (AADL). However, the library building is currently closed for an undetermined period as the main elevator is being repaired.

The start time for the Aug. 21 meeting, which will be held in the boardroom at AAATA headquarters, is 6:30 p.m. The AAATA facility is not equipped with built-in Community Television Network cameras as the AADL is. It’s not yet clear if AAATA will ask that a mobile CTN crew be dispatched to AAATA headquarters to record the … [Full Story]

AAATA Calls Special Board Meeting: July 23

The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority has called a special board meeting for Tuesday, July 23 at 4 p.m. at the agency’s main office on 2700 South Industrial Highway in Ann Arbor.

The board previously did not have a meeting scheduled for the month of July. But at the board’s June 20, 2013 meeting, CEO Michael Ford indicated that one might be convened, to handle some routine items as well as next steps related to the addition of Ypsilanti to the AAATA. The board had voted on June 20 to ratify changes to the articles of incorporation of the authority, which added the city of Ypsilanti as a member.

No agenda for the special July 23 meeting has been released.

Washtenaw: Regional Transit

Several media outlets report on the first board meeting of the new Southeast Michigan Region Transit Authority (RTA), held April 10 in downtown Detroit. One of the two Washtenaw County board members – Liz Gerber – was appointed vice chair of the board. Richard Murphy is the other Washtenaw board member, although the board’s chair – Paul Hillegonds, a DTE Energy executive who was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder – also is a Washtenaw County resident. The RTA is charged with coordinating public transit in Detroit and four counties: Macomb, Oakland, Wayne and Washtenaw. [Source] [Source] [Source]

AADL Highlights UM Partnerships

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Feb. 18, 2013): Communications was a common theme throughout this month’s AADL board meeting.

Barbara Murphy, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Barbara Murphy, a trustee of the Ann Arbor District Library, reviews a brochure for AADL’s upcoming “America’s Music” series. The materials were shared at the board’s Feb. 18, 2013 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

The meeting’s main presentation focused on AADL’s partnerships with the University of Michigan, primarily with the Proyecto Avance: Latino Mentoring Association (PALMA), a UM student group. The program, which meets on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in AADL’s downtown building, includes 100 participants of all ages who work with about 75 tutors to improve their English language communication skills.

Terry Soave, AADL’s manager of outreach and neighborhood services, encouraged board members to drop by the library when the tutoring is in session, saying, “it’s a pretty spectacular thing to see.”

The Feb. 18 meeting also included a report from the board’s new communications committee, chaired by Nancy Kaplan, which recommended adding a second opportunity for public commentary at the end of each monthly meeting. There was no formal vote on this recommendation, but board members indicated agreement. In fact, a second slot for public commentary had already been included on the agenda when it was posted the previous week.

Speaking at the first opportunity for public commentary on Monday, Kathy Griswold – an organizer of the Protect Our Libraries group – urged the board to allow its committee meetings to be open to the public. She noted that committee meetings are open for most other local governing entities – including the Ann Arbor city council, Ann Arbor Public Schools board, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board, and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board. There was no subsequent discussion of this suggestion among board members during the meeting. [Full Story]

AADL Acts on Communications, Facilities

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Jan. 21, 2013): Efforts to develop a communications plan and to review the needs of all library facilities were among the items addressed at the library board’s first meeting of 2013.

Prue Rosenthal, Barbara Murphy, Ann Arbor District Library board, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Prue Rosenthal, the new president of the Ann Arbor District Library board, and board member Barbara Murphy. The seven-member board elected new officers at its Jan. 21, 2013 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

The board voted unanimously to create two special committees – for facilities and communications. The efforts can be tied to a defeated bond proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot, which the AADL board had hoped would fund a new downtown library.

Both topics were touched on during public commentary, too. Two local architects – Sahba Laal and George Kachadoorian – told the board they’ve prepared a proposal for renovating and perhaps adding to the downtown library building. They hope to present their ideas at a future board meeting. Also during public commentary, Lou Glorie urged the board to consider moving its meeting dates, which typically fall on the same evening as Ann Arbor city council meetings. She also suggested that the meetings be recorded for viewing on Community Television Network (CTN) – an idea that the majority of board members rejected when Nancy Kaplan proposed it nearly two years ago.

In contrast, Kaplan’s most recent proposal – to hold three board meetings this year at library branches, rather than at the downtown location – won unanimous support from the board. The change is intended to make it easier for the public to attend, and to showcase the branches. Those branch meetings will be held at: (1) the Traverwood branch at 3333 Traverwood Drive, at the intersection with Huron Parkway (June 17); (2) the Pittsfield branch at 2359 Oak Valley Drive (July 15); and the Malletts Creek branch at 3090 E. Eisenhower Parkway, east of Stone School Road (Sept. 16).

The Jan. 21 meeting included a swearing-in ceremony – officiated by Libby Hines, chief judge of the 15th District Court – for the four AADL board incumbents who were re-elected on Nov. 6, 2012: Nancy Kaplan, Margaret Leary, Rebecca Head and Prue Rosenthal. The seven-member board also held officer elections. Prue Rosenthal was unanimously elected president. Other officers are Jan Barney Newman (vice president); Nancy Kaplan (treasurer); and Rebecca Head (secretary).

Several members of the Protect Our Libraries group attended the Jan. 21 meeting. Formed in 2012 to oppose the AADL’s bond proposal for a new downtown library, the group subsequently organized as a political action committee (PAC). Kathy Griswold, who launched Protect Our Libraries, was among those present at the board meeting – along with Bob Rorke, who previously served on the Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education with Griswold. Griswold told The Chronicle that the PAC is hiring Rorke to conduct a financial analysis of the AADL. [Full Story]

AATA Board Calls Special Meeting

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board will hold a special meeting on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013 at 4 p.m. at the AATA headquarters at 2700 S. Industrial Highway.

The purpose of the special meeting is related to a pending lawsuit against the AATA – for refusing to allow an anti-Israeli advertisement to be placed on the sides of its buses. Based on the timeline set forth in a recent court order, the board’s meeting will likely include a closed session to evaluate the previously rejected advertisement under the terms of a newly revised advertising policy. The board adopted the revised ad policy in late November. By Jan. 4, the day after the special meeting, the AATA must notify the plaintiff in … [Full Story]

Library Board Gets Update on Bond Campaign

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Oct. 15, 2012): In their last meeting before the Nov. 6 election, board members got an update about the campaign to support AADL’s bond proposal for a new downtown library.

Ellie Serras, Ann Arbor District Library Board, Our New Downtown Library, election, bond proposal, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ellie Serras, who leads the campaign to support AADL’s bond proposal for a new downtown library, spoke during public commentary to update the board on the campaign. (Photos by the writer.)

That update came from Ellie Serras, who leads the Our New Downtown Library campaign committee. She had briefed the board previously at its Aug. 20 meeting. If approved by voters on Nov. 6, the $65 million, 30-year bond proposal will fund the demolition of the existing library at 343 S. Fifth and the construction of a new building on that same site.

Speaking during public commentary, Serras catalogued the number of yard signs, buttons, postcard mailings, meetings and other efforts of the campaign. She described the campaign as being built on trust and confidence, “not rumor and innuendo,” and said the new library will be an expression of the community’s core values of education and equal access for all. Serras received a round of applause from board members after her remarks.

The other item tangentially related to the bond proposal was the uncharacteristic absence of AADL director Josie Parker from the meeting. Board president Margaret Leary reported that Parker was attending two separate township meetings that night to talk about the bond proposal. For the most part, the AADL district mirrors the Ann Arbor Public Schools district. In addition to the city of Ann Arbor, the district includes parts of the townships of Pittsfield, Scio, Ann Arbor, Lodi, Webster, Salem and Superior.

In addition to the bond proposal, there are four seats on the AADL board that are on the Nov. 6 ballot. Four incumbents – Rebecca Head, Nancy Kaplan, Margaret Leary and Prue Rosenthal – are running for re-election. The fifth candidate is Lyn Davidge, who attended the Oct. 15 meeting but did not speak during public commentary. For Chronicle coverage of a recent League of Women Voters forum on this race, see “Library Board Candidates Compete for 4 Seats.” While the four incumbents support the bond proposal, Davidge does not believe it’s the right project at this time.

During the Oct. 15 meeting, the board also got a brief report on library finances. And Leary notified the board that Parker has been appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to the Michigan Commission for Blind Persons, an advisory group for state programs and services. The AADL administers the Washtenaw Library for the Blind & Physically Disabled. [Full Story]

Library Board Updated on Strategic Plan

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Sept. 24, 2012): The public session of Monday’s library board meeting lasted only 15 minutes. Although just six weeks remain before the Nov. 6 election – when voters will weigh in on a $65 million bond proposal for a new downtown library – that issue received scant mention.

Josie Parker

Ann Arbor District Library director Josie Parker at the Sept. 24, 2012 meeting of the AADL board. She reported on recent recognition given to the Washtenaw Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled, which is administered by AADL. (Photos by the writer.)

But the bond proposal could be seen as the backdrop for a report by AADL director Josie Parker, who provided an update of the district’s five-year strategic plan, which the board adopted in 2010. Parker distributed a copy of the plan that highlighted achievements from the most recent fiscal year. “Our reach in the community is deep and it’s wide,” she said. “The strategic plan is our evidence.” [.pdf of highlighted strategic plan]

Board president Margaret Leary noted that as the community’s attention is rightly focused on the bond proposal, the goal of renovating or replacing the downtown building is only one item in the strategic plan. There are seven pages of actions that the library is taking, she said.

At last month’s board meeting Ellie Serras, chair of the Our New Downtown Library campaign committee, spoke during public commentary to brief the board on actions of that pro-bond group. And since then, two other efforts – to oppose the proposal – have emerged. A group called Protect Our Libraries was formed earlier this month. Its treasurer is Kathy Griswold, a former member of the Ann Arbor Public Schools board.

And Douglas Jewett, who had attended an August forum for potential AADL board candidates, filed paperwork on Sept. 25 for the Save the Ann Arbor Library ballot question committee. He did not file to run for the board. He previously had secured a sidewalk vendor permit on Aug. 20 for space in front of the downtown library at 343 S. Fifth. He uses the space to lobby against demolition of the current building, citing its architectural significance. The original portion of the building was designed by Alden B. Dow.

At the candidate forum, Jewett had praised the library, calling it the center of Ann Arbor. Four non-partisan board seats on the Nov. 6 ballot will be contested by five candidates: the four incumbents – Prue Rosenthal, Margaret Leary, Nancy Kaplan and Rebecca Head – as well as Lyn Davidge, who attended the Sept. 24 board meeting.

The positions will be elected by voters in Ann Arbor and portions of seven townships that are covered by the library’s district, in Pittsfield, Scio, Ann Arbor, Lodi, Webster, Salem and Superior. Those are the same boundaries served by the Ann Arbor Public Schools, with the exception of Northfield Township. The four-year terms begin Jan. 1, 2013. [Full Story]

AATA Receives Unqualified Audit

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (March 15, 2012): After waiting out a tornado warning in the basement of the downtown Ann Arbor District Library building, the AATA board made relatively quick work of its monthly meeting.

Auditors David Helisek and Pam Hill of Plante Moran PLLC.

Auditors David Helisek and Pam Hill of Plante Moran. (Photos by the writer.)

Still, the board transacted two pieces of business. The first was to approve the report of its auditor, Plante Moran. The overall opinion was “unqualified,” which is the highest rating that can be given. Still, the audit revealed some issues that need to be addressed, one of which was dealt with as part of the audit – the recording of revenue from the tax levy in the year it’s received. That actually increased the amount of AATA net assets by $7 million, but is an accounting change, not an actual change. The auditors found one case of a contract that should have been subjected to Davis-Bacon compliance requirements but was not.

Another issue identified by the auditor involves the AATA’s practice of investing in fuel futures as a hedge against the volatility of diesel prices – the advice was to review the practice with legal counsel. Plante Moran also flagged an issue involving the shelf-life of federal grants – but the AATA and auditors see that issue differently.

The second business item was approval of revisions to the AATA management personnel handbook – it was part of a periodic review and revision. Among myriad other changes, the amended document adds “sexual orientation” to the list of protected classes. [Full Story]

UM Students Lobby Regents to Take Action

University of Michigan board of regents meeting (March 15, 2012): About 100 people – most of them students advocating for tuition reform or changes to the University of Michigan’s childcare subsidy – packed this month’s venue for the regents meeting: The Michigan Union’s cavernous Pendleton Room.

Genevieve Urbain

Genevieve Urbain awaits her turn to speak during public commentary at the March 15, 2012 UM board of regents meeting. She was one of three people who spoke on the topic of Willis Ward, urging regents to find a way to honor the African-American athlete who played football for UM in the 1930s. (Photos by the writer.)

With minimal discussion, regents dispatched a variety of action items during the meeting, including several related to health education, facilities and athletics. They authorized a $50 million new building for the School of Nursing, as well as $20.5 million in renovations at the Taubman Health Care Center. In athletics-related items, regents approved renaming the Crisler Arena to Crisler Center, reflecting the broader uses there, as it has expanded in recent years. The board also authorized a $2 million increase in the budget for renovations at Yost Ice Arena, bringing that project to $16 million.

Ron Zernicke, dean of the School of Kinesiology, gave the meeting’s only presentation. He described the school’s facilities and academic programs, and the pressures of its increasing student enrollments. For undergraduates, kinesiology is the fourth largest school at UM’s Ann Arbor campus, with 877 students.

As part of her opening remarks, UM president Mary Sue Coleman reported that Fred White – a retired university auditor –has been hired as project manager to implement recommendations from an internal audit. The audit relates to an incident last year involving child pornography allegedly viewed on a UM health system computer. White will also serve as a liaison for an external review ordered by the board at its February meeting.

Several reports were received during the meeting as items of information, including the regular report on internal audits, and a summary of ongoing construction activities. Tim Slottow, UM’s chief financial officer, noted that the Fuller Road Station has been removed from the construction project list. He told regents that the university and city of Ann Arbor couldn’t agree on a memorandum of understanding on the joint project, but that he thinks it’s still a good aspiration. [See Chronicle coverage: "UM, Ann Arbor Halt Fuller Road Project"]

As it did at last month’s meeting, public commentary focused on better access to a childcare subsidy available to parents who are UM students – an issue being negotiated by the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) – and equity for students who are charged out-of-state tuition because they are undocumented immigrants. Students urged regents to support both issues.

The meeting ended with three speakers – including eight-year-old Genevieve Urbain – asking regents to honor Willis Ward, an athlete at UM during the 1930s who faced discrimination because of his race. Regent Martin Taylor, who said Ward had been a friend and fraternity brother, got consensus from regents to seek recommendations on how Ward might be appropriately recognized. [Full Story]

AADL Hears from “Library Green” Advocates

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Aug. 15, 2011): A brief library board meeting on Monday night included a relatively rare occurrence – multiple people spoke during the time allotted for public commentary.

Mary Hathaway

Mary Hathaway spoke to the Ann Arbor District Library board about efforts to create a public gathering place atop the underground parking structure adjacent to the downtown library. (Photo by the writer.)

The commentary focused on what’s now being called the “Library Green” – an effort to create a public park atop the underground parking structure that’s being built on South Fifth Avenue, adjacent to the downtown library building. Advocates for the park conveyed that they’ve taken to heart the concerns of the library, and hope to partner with AADL to develop an area that benefits the public and helps the library to thrive.

The board began its meeting with a closed session, in part for the purpose of getting advice from AADL’s legal counsel. In her written report to the board, AADL director Josie Parker noted that the library is considering the legal and financial implications of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s decision regarding “excess” taxes captured in the DDA’s tax increment finance (TIF) district.

Board members did not discuss this issue, but voted to schedule another closed session at their Sept. 19 meeting again to hear advice from legal counsel. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Library Gets Its Game On

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (June 20, 2011): On Monday, AADL board members learned that they each earned 200 points toward the library’s online summer game – just by attending the meeting.

Screen shot of the Ann Arbor District Library website

Screen shot of the Ann Arbor District Library summer game website. (Image links to

Eli Neiburger, AADL’s associate director of IT and product development, gave a brief presentation on the library’s new online component of its standard summer reading program. In addition to earning points for traditional activities like reading a book, the game includes tasks that are done online, like tagging an item in AADL’s catalog or commenting on a blog post. After July 5, points can be traded in for merchandise that will be available at AADL’s soon-to-be-launched online store.

The online aspect is another way to engage more people with the library, Neiburger said, while not demanding an intensive amount of staff time.

Also during the 30-minute meeting, AADL director Josie Parker updated the board on several issues. She’s been invited by the Ann Arbor city council to address that group at its July 5 meeting, to talk about the library’s needs in the context of plans to develop city-owned parcels. That development might include the top of the underground parking structure – known as the Library Lot – that’s under construction adjacent to AADL’s downtown building.

Parker also noted that AADL’s attorney is reviewing a recent decision by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board to repay the AADL $74,666 in excess tax increment finance (TIF) funds. There’s a question about whether additional funds are owed to the library and other taxing entities.

At the end of her report, Parker briefed the board about her trip to the UNESCO World Forum on Culture and Cultural Industries, held in Monza, Italy earlier this month – the three-day event focused on the future of the written word. She’d been invited to participate in a panel discussion on the topic of the library as a public service. There was acknowledgement among the attendees – librarians, publishing executives, academics, authors and others – that the digital production of material will prevail during the next decade or so, Parker said, but there was no real consensus about what that will actually mean.

In addition to hearing staff reports, the board also approved minor adjustments to wrap up AADL’s FY 2010-2011 budget, which ends June 30. Board members had approved next year’s budget at their May 16 meeting. [Full Story]

Monthly Milestone: A Different Beast

Editor’s note: The monthly milestone column, which appears on the second day of each month – the anniversary of The Ann Arbor Chronicle’s Sept. 2, 2008 launch – is an opportunity for either the publisher or the editor of The Chronicle to touch base with readers on topics related to this publication.

It’s also a time that we highlight, with gratitude, our local advertisers, and ask readers to consider subscribing voluntarily to The Chronicle to support our work.

The May meeting of the University of Michigan board of regents was remarkable for a rare display of discord. It’s the only time I can recall that this particular board has publicly voiced disagreement with the administration. It’s the only time I can remember some unscripted debate unfolding among regents on a substantive issue – the issue was a resolution recognizing the right of graduate student research assistants to unionize.


Bezonki, like The Chronicle, is a different kind of beast – he's sometimes surprised by what he reads in the newspaper. This is a preview panel from the upcoming June edition of The Chronicle's comic – a monthly nod to the time-honored tradition of the Sunday funnies. Bezonki is created by local artist Alvey Jones. (Image links to Bezonki archive.)

After the meeting, I happened to be leaving at the same time as UM president Mary Sue Coleman. As we walked down the hall together, I told her that despite the tension and clearly deep disagreement on this issue, I had found it refreshing to see an actual public debate at the meeting. It simply never happens.

Whatever disagreements exist among regents – or between regents and the administration – seem to be aired privately. When tuition rates are set, some regents will read statements of polite disagreement, before casting their votes of dissent. But most action items are approved unanimously, with little if any comment. I told Coleman that I realized the meeting had been at times uncomfortable, but that I appreciated the debate.

She gave me a withering look. “I’m sure you do,” she said, crisply.

Her pointed disdain took me aback – though I should have seen it coming. From her perspective, she’d been delivered a very public defeat on an issue she is passionate about, grounded in her personal experience. She seemed weary. But her comment also revealed a view of the media that’s more prevalent and more justified than I like to admit. It’s a view of reporters as hungering for headline-grabbing, website-traffic-sucking stories – and if the facts don’t quite deliver the juice, well, there are ways to spice up reality. There’s a reason why news gathering is sometimes called “feeding the beast.”

From that perspective, Coleman perhaps heard my remarks as the comments of someone who was hungry for more drama of regents mixing it up in front of the plebeians. Ouch.

So on my drive home from UM’s Dearborn campus – where the regents meeting was held – I thought about why the exchange had touched a nerve for me. For one, I’m dismayed that elected officials and other civic leaders are so often reluctant to hold difficult discussions in public. The board of regents is not the only body that does its business like a tightly choreographed kabuki dance. But as a journalist, I’m angered when irresponsible actions by those who earn a livelihood as part of the news media give public bodies a cheap excuse to be even more closed-off. [Full Story]

School Board Calls Extra Session on Budget

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (May 25, 2011): The May 25 meeting of the AAPS board of education opened on a somber note, with board president Deb Mexicotte requesting a moment of silence to honor Huron High School junior Seth Harsch, who died Tuesday after stepping in front of a train. Mexicotte noted that crisis counselors have been on hand at Huron to offer support to students and staff, who are dealing with the loss to their community.

A handful of residents addressed the board during a public hearing on the proposed 2011-12 AAPS budget. The board will hold an additional study session on the budget on Fri., June 3 at 3:30 p.m. in the main conference room of the Balas administration building, and the public is invited.

The session will focus on prioritizing objectives, in case the finalization of the state budget leads to greater revenue for the district than initially expected. If revenue projections increase, the board may choose to restore high school busing, decrease class sizes, or make other amendments to the currently proposed budget. A final vote on the budget is scheduled for June 8.

Public commentary on the Haisley Elementary School parking lot continued. Although many of the speakers requested additional changes to the design, the board approved the proposal as it had been presented at the board’s first briefing, along with a host of other facilities improvement projects. Trustees also approved the purchase of a new standardized assessment tool, the Northwest Evaluation Association Assessment (NWEA), primarily for use in grades K-5.

Late in the meeting, which lasted over seven hours, the board engaged in a frank discussion regarding the Washtenaw Intermediate School District’s (WISD’s) budget as it relates to state reimbursement of special education services as well as local tax levies. Though trustees eventually passed a proposal in support of the budget, some board members registered strong concerns.

Finally, the board heard first briefings on a number of other items, including the 2011 millage resolution that will accompany the final budget vote, and updates on both the AAPS strategic plan and a set of board policies. [Full Story]

AAPS Board: No Principal Sharing in 2011-12

Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) board of education meeting (May 11, 2011): After hearing significant public commentary on the matter, and following a spirited discussion, the AAPS board voted 5-2 to eliminate a plan to share principals among elementary schools from the proposed 2011-12 AAPS budget. A public hearing on the budget will be held as part of the next regular board meeting at 7 p.m. on May 25.

Public commentary was also rich with concerns regarding a proposed expansion of the parking lot at Haisley Elementary, which was discussed by the board at length as a first briefing item. It will come up for a vote at the May 25 meeting.

At the May 11 meeting, which lasted past 1:30 a.m., the board also approved upgrades to the district’s PowerSchool communication system, SISS assistive technology, and the elementary math curriculum. They also heard a first briefing on a proposal to purchase a new standardized assessment tool to complement the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP), and were updated on the progress of the Widening Advancement for Youth (WAY) Washtenaw program. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Library Frames Tech Issues

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (March 21, 2011): Monday’s meeting of the AADL board included an animated discussion about how digital books are transforming the publishing industry, and the impact those changes are having on public libraries.

Eli Neiburger avatar

The avatar for Eli Neiburger – or click the photo to see how he looks in real life. Neiburger has been named by Library Journal as one of its 2011 Movers & Shakers.

The topic stemmed from a report by AADL director Josie Parker, who described her experience at a recent working group meeting for the Digital Public Library of America. At that invitation-only event, Parker framed the discussion among industry leaders regarding the future of public access to information, from the perspective of public libraries.

It’s an issue highlighted by the decision of two major publishers – Macmillan and Simon & Schuster – not to sell eBooks to public libraries, making more than 25% of the eBook market unavailable to library patrons. More recently, HarperCollins announced restrictions on how libraries can circulate eBooks that it publishes.

Eli Neiburger, AADL’s associate director of IT and product development, gave a talk on the impact of eBooks at a national summit last fall called “ebooks: Libraries at the Tipping Point” – his presentation can be viewed online. At Monday’s meeting, Parker congratulated him for being named by Library Journal as one of its 2011 Movers & Shakers, in the category of tech leaders.

In another technology-related update, Parker told the board she’s been invited to serve on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation‘s public access technology benchmarks program. That workgroup will be developing benchmarks that libraries can use to determine the kind of technology infrastructure they need to deliver services to their communities.

Parker also briefed the board on new standards imposed by the Library of Michigan, which changed how public libraries qualify for state aid. Those standards – originally proposed as rules – are the subject of a lawsuit against the state library, filed by the Herrick District Library in Holland. The AADL has filed an amicus curiae – or “friend of the court” – brief in support of the Herrick library’s position, which charges that the state library has no authority to set these rules, and is taking away local control from district libraries.

Aside from updates made by Parker, the board dispatched with the rest of its business quickly. No one spoke during the time available for public commentary. [Full Story]

AAPS Board Gets Briefed on Budget

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education regular meeting (March 16, 2011): The highlight of last week’s meeting was a presentation from interim superintendent Robert Allen on the many budget and funding issues the district faces in the coming years.

Allen told board members that the district faces a $15 million shortfall in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. That figure assumes the special education millage, on the ballot for May 3, will be renewed. If voters don’t approve the millage renewal, the deficit could grow to nearly $21 million.

During the meeting, board members criticized Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed state budget, which calls for cuts to K-12 education. They cautioned that his focus on business tax cuts would undermine the quality of public education in the state. “I don’t think most people want education ravaged in order to fund a huge business tax cut,” trustee Glenn Nelson said. “We need to shout this story from the rooftops.”

Allen will be giving an expanded report on the budget situation to the public from 6:30-8 p.m. on Monday, March 21 at the Pioneer High School cafeteria annex. The board also discussed setting up a time to meet with state legislators, to discuss their concerns about the state budget proposals.

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, board president Deb Mexicotte reported that the district is close to wrapping up contract negotiations with Patricia Green, the board’s choice to become the district’s next superintendent. She hoped to provide additional details soon, including a potential start date. [Full Story]

UM Research Highlighted at Regents Meeting

University of Michigan board of regents meeting (Jan. 20, 2011): The university’s top research administrator, along with a faculty member who has successfully straddled the academic and entrepreneurial worlds, addressed regents at their January meeting about how university research is aiding economic development.

Stephen Forrest, David Lampe

Stephen Forrest, left, talks with David Lampe before the start of the Jan. 19, 2011 University of Michigan board of regents meeting. Forrest, UM's vice president for research, gave a presentation on the university's research efforts. Lampe is vice president for communications. (Photos by the writer.)

Stephen Forrest, UM’s vice president for research and chair of the board for economic development agency Ann Arbor SPARK, described the concept of an “innovation pipeline,” with the input of funding and ideas yielding an output of jobs, prosperity and expanded opportunities for faculty and students. The process has leaks and clogs, he noted, but the university has strategically applied patches – citing as an example the Venture Accelerator program that launched this month.

And Jim Baker, director of the Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and Biological Sciences, was on hand to embody the efforts of faculty who successfully translate research into economic development. Baker’s talk focused on the rewards of creating new businesses – he observed that one reason why students come to UM is to enhance their economic prospects and improve their lives. Baker talked about the importance of keeping those graduates in Michigan to aid in the state’s economic recovery – and doing that requires jobs. He noted that the four companies he has helped launch in Ann Arbor have brought in $160 million in investments and created 45 new jobs so far.

Regents took action on several items during the meeting, including approval of two projects related to the athletics department: A $52 million renovation and expansion of Crisler Arena – the second phase of a major overhaul of that facility, which was built in 1968; and a $20 million project to install video scoreboards at Michigan Stadium, Crisler Arena and Yost Ice Arena. David Brandon, UM’s athletic director, made a brief appearance at the meeting but did not address the regents publicly. And this month’s biggest athletic-related news at UM – that Brady Hoke was hired as head football coach – received only a mention as part of president Mary Sue Coleman’s opening remarks. He did not attend the meeting.

Seven people spoke during public commentary on a variety of topics. Among them were: (1) a call to reassess Fuller Road Station, a proposed parking structure and possible train station near UM’s medical campus; ( 2) questions about the medical leave of Ken Magee, executive director of UM’s Department of Public Safety (DPS); (3) thanks from the leader of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival for the university’s support of that annual event; (4) criticism of the use of live animals to train survival flight nurses; and (5) a plea for financial support for The Loyal Opposition to the Status Quo (LOSQ), a nonprofit launched to address disparities between African-Americans and Caucasians. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Library Board Starts New Year

Ann Arbor District Library annual board meeting (Jan. 17, 2011): The library board’s first meeting of 2011 served as the board’s “annual meeting.” It kicked off with a swearing-in for four board members – including three incumbents – who won their elections on Nov. 2. The ceremony was officiated by Judge Elizabeth “Libby” Hines of the 15th District Court.

Barbara Murphy, Ed Surovell, Nancy Kaplan, Jan Barney Newman

From left: Barbara Murphy, Ed Surovell, Nancy Kaplan and Jan Barney Newman were sworn in as Ann Arbor District Library board members at Monday's meeting. Elizabeth Hines, a judge in the 15th District Court, officiated the ceremony. (Photos by the writer.)

The seven-member board also elected new officers – there were no competing nominations, and all votes were unanimous. Margaret Leary, who has previously served as president, was again elected to that office, replacing trustee Rebecca Head. In her final remarks as president before new officers were elected, Head gave an overview of the past 18 months, citing both challenges and accomplishments during that period.

The board also heard some details about AADL director Josie Parker’s involvement in the Digital Public Library of America initiative. Parker has been invited to be part of a small working group that will help launch the project, which is spearheaded by Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Paul Courant, dean of libraries for the University of Michigan, is also involved. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Library Weighs In On Lawsuit

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Dec. 20, 2010): The AADL board spent much of their December meeting focused on a statewide issue with local implications: New rules issued by the Library of Michigan are being challenged in court. The board ultimately voted to file an amicus curiae – or “friend of the court” – brief in support of the Herrick District Library in Holland, which filed suit against the state library. At stake are broader issues of local control, which officials at local public libraries believe would be eroded if the new rules are allowed. The new rules change how libraries qualify for state aid.

The board also got brief updates on plans to deal with the downtown library building and with the parking deal being negotiated between the city of Ann Arbor and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.

Monday’s meeting wrapped up with a farewell to Carola Stearns, the outgoing board member whose term concludes at the end of the year. [Full Story]

AAPS Pursues Tenure Charges Against Two

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (Dec. 15, 2010): At Wednesday’s meeting, the AAPS board of education voted unanimously to pursue tenure charges against two teachers – high school orchestra teacher Christopher Mark and elementary classroom teacher William Harris.

Chris Mark conducts a rehearsal Monday afternoon of the Huron High symphony orchestra.

This early 2009 Chronicle file photo shows Christopher Mark as he conducts a rehearsal of the Huron High symphony orchestra. (Photo links to Jan. 12, 2009 Chronicle article about a visit from lead violinist for the Guarneri String Quartet, Arnold Steinhardt.)

In neither case did the board explain its reasoning or share any details of their investigation. However, public commentary about Mark’s case revealed the board’s concern that Mark had engaged in a possibly inappropriate relationship with a woman when she was a student at Huron High School five years ago. Mark and the woman are currently dating.

Also at the meeting, AAPS interim superintendent Robert Allen presented a draft of proposed changes to the district’s strategic plan. Three of the eight original action teams for the plan, each centered on a core strategy, have been asked to reconvene from January to March of 2011 to clarify the focus of their work in light of the proposed changes. Finalized updates to the strategic plan will be presented in April 2011 for board approval.

A number of additional actions were taken by the board at the meeting, including adoption of a set of principles to be used in drafting education reform legislation. The principles will now be shared with other local districts in the hopes of presenting a unified set of suggestions to legislative representatives early in 2011. [Full Story]

Balanced Calendar on Hold for AAPS

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (Dec. 8, 2010): At last Wednesday’s board meeting, trustees got an update on a partnership between the University of Michigan (UM) and Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) on a developing program involving UM, Mitchell Elementary School and Scarlett Middle School.

One component of this initiative, formerly known as the lab school, is a “balanced calendar,” which features a shorter summer break, and includes optional intersessions – one or two-week long academic or enrichment activities held during breaks in regular instruction. At Wednesday’s meeting, Mitchell principal Kathy Scarnecchia reported that implementation of the balanced calendar will be delayed until 2012-13.  The delay comes primarily in response to concerns about different children in the same family ending up on different schedules, since the balanced calendar was planned to be implemented at Mitchell and Scarlett, but not at other AAPS schools.

The partnership’s planning committee is now considering other options, including moving all of Scarlett’s feeder schools to a balanced calendar, or allowing families to opt-in or opt-out of the partnership entirely. The board was uniformly in support of the balanced calendar, with multiple board members suggesting that it be expanded to the entire district.

Also at last Wednesday’s meeting, the board briefly discussed the process it would use to conduct interviews of the final candidates for the superintendent position, and the timeline for the remaining aspects of the search process. The board also got a first-quarter financial update with news that the state had restored nearly $4.3 million of the $20 million of funding cut during the last school year. [Full Story]

AATA Continues Push for Master Plan Input

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Oct. 21, 2010): The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority has several major projects in the works, including remodeling the downtown transportation terminal – the Blake Transit Center – and developing a countywide master plan that calls for a series of community forums.

One of those community forums was held on Thursday, an hour prior to the AATA’s monthly board meeting. But no one from the public showed up to that particular event – several other meetings are scheduled. The board meeting that followed was over within an hour. In addition to the master plan, the board discussed the most recent quarter’s on-time trip performance, which board member David Nacht described as “abysmal.” [Full Story]

County Commissioner Expenses Debated

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners meeting (Oct. 20, 2010): A strong undercurrent of both the upcoming Nov. 2 elections and the looming county budget deficit erupted at times during Wednesday’s board meeting – the last board meeting prior to the elections.

Mark Ouimet, Leah Gunn

County commissioners Mark Ouimet and Leah Gunn talk prior to the start of the Oct. 20 Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting. During the meeting Gunn, a Democrat, defended Ouimet, who has come under attack by some Democrats for excessive and inappropriate per-diem claims. (Photos by the writer.)

At the center of public commentary and commissioner discussion – which at times grew heated – was the issue of whether commissioners are appropriately claiming reimbursements for mileage and per diem. The controversy first emerged at the board’s last meeting on Oct. 6, when Democrat Tom Wieder spoke during public commentary to call for an investigation into per diem spending by commissioner Mark Ouimet. That same Oct. 6 meeting included discussion of a projected two-year budget deficit for 2012 and 2013 that could exceed $20 million.

Ouimet, a Republican who’s running for state representative in District 52 against Democrat Christine Green, was defended on Wednesday during public commentary by the county’s top two GOP officials, Mark Boonstra and Wyckham Seelig, who accused the Democratic board majority of partisan politics. They said they’ve launched their own investigation into commissioner spending, specifically citing out-of-state travel by Kristin Judge. Judge has been a vocal critic of Ouimet’s spending, during the meeting noting that the board rules are clear and that Ouimet failed to abide by them at times.

Ouimet was also defended at Wednesday’s meeting by several Democrats who serve with him on the board and who said they had nothing to do with the recent criticism of him. Leah Gunn recalled that Ouimet had been her Ward 4 Ann Arbor city councilmember some 20 years ago, and that she’s always found him to be upstanding and gracious. Ken Schwartz criticized the “Lansing politics” that were being brought to the county. He noted that the board has a track record of working together without divisive partisan politics, and that they’d all been surprised by the recent controversy.

County clerk Larry Kestenbaum also weighed in, commenting on a report that his office had released earlier in the day that analyzed per-diem and mileage expenses for all commissioners, dating back to 2005. Ouimet claimed the most expenses by far during that period – $32,804. Of Ouimet’s claims, $10,564 was analyzed as ineligible, and another $6,055 was “uncertain,” indicating a gray area where reimbursement rules aren’t clear. That means that about half of Ouimet’s claims don’t fall into the clearly acceptable category. Kestenbaum spoke during public commentary, saying that he considered all the commissioners to be his friends and great public servants – the report was not intended to be an attack, he said.

Ouimet offered to put the disputed amount in escrow until all of the claims have been reviewed. [The Chronicle converted the county clerk's Excel workbook with multiple tabs, one for each commissioner, to a single .pdf file. Commissioner Ronnie Peterson has not claimed mileage and per-diem expenses, and is not included in the report.]

The issue of commissioner expenses came up earlier in the meeting in another context. Judge introduced a resolution that would have eliminated retirement pensions and health care for commissioners, saying that the change would save the county more than $25,000 annually. She noted that she had circulated the resolution to commissioners prior to the meeting, though it was not on the agenda. No one seconded the motion, and it died without further discussion.

Also related to budget issues, the board gave initial approval to levy an economic development tax of 0.043 mills. Known as the Act 88 millage, it is expected to generate roughly $611,266 annually and would cost homeowners $4.30 for every $100,000 of a home’s taxable value. Because Act 88 predates the state’s Headlee Amendment, it can be approved by the board without a voter referendum. Three commissioners – Judge, Ouimet and Wes Prater – voted against the measure, and Jessica Ping abstained, citing the fact that a recipient of the funds, Ann Arbor SPARK, is a client of hers.

Another millage – one that, unlike Act 88, will be on the ballot – would support the Ypsilanti District Library. Linda Gurka, a member of the library’s board of trustees, spoke during public commentary to drum up support for the millage increase that will be on the ballot for Ypsilanti District Library voters. Also during public commentary, Todd Clark, co-chair of this year’s United Way of Washtenaw County‘s fundraising campaign, spoke in support of a proposed coordinated funding model for local nonprofits. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Library Board Gives Kudos

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Oct. 18, 2010): The bulk of Monday’s 20-minute library board meeting was devoted to accolades: A clean audit for the Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library, praise from representatives of people with disabilities, and a five-star ranking for the AADL, making it among the top libraries in the country.

Shannon Owen

Shannon Owen, circulation clerk at the Ann Arbor District Library's downtown branch, checks out materials for patrons on Monday night. (Photos by the writer.)

In addition, during public commentary the board heard from Alan Haber, a community activist who’s advocating for a greenspace commons to be located atop an underground parking structure being built adjacent to the downtown library on Fifth Avenue. Haber presented architectural renderings of the proposal, designed by Stephan Trendov, and asked the board to allow him to give a more detailed presentation at an upcoming meeting.

In his financial report, AADL associate director Ken Nieman told the board that while most costs are expected to be in line with budgeted amounts during the current fiscal year, that might not be the case for employee benefits. It was an issue that arose during the board’s September meeting as well, when library officials reported that they were changing the insurance options for non-union employees to address increased expenses. On Monday, Nieman also said they’d just received word that the employer contribution rate to the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS) was going to increase again – it had already been bumped up to 19.4% on Oct. 1, and would rise to 20.5% on Nov. 1. [Full Story]

AATA Approves Budget, UM Agreement

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Sept. 16, 2010): After failing to achieve a quorum last month, this month the AATA board hit enough of the right figurative buttons to transact successfully the month’s business.

David Nacht with microphone.

AATA board member David Nacht presses his microphone button. (Photos by the writer.)

That business included the approval of its fiscal year 2011 budget, which starts Oct. 1, 2010 and goes through Sept. 30, 2011. The FY 2011 budget calls for a total of $27,030,407 in expenses, among them a provision for a 2% merit-based increase in non-union staff compensation, with an additional 1% bonus pool for the organization’s top performers.

The board also approved another five-year MRide agreement with the University of Michigan to provide transportation for UM faculty, students and staff. Under the agreement, which runs from 2010-2015, UM affiliates will continue to board without paying a fare, with UM paying the AATA $1 per boarding.

When added to the per-boarding payment, $800,000-$900,000 of federal funds – received by UM and included as part of the MRide deal – will result in an estimated $2.37 million payment by UM to the AATA in FY 2011, the first year of the new agreement.

The board also voted to award a three-year contract to RideConnect – a partnership of WATS, Washtenaw County, WAVE and People’s Express – valued at $200,000 per year. The contract will be paid by federal and state funds designated specifically to aid the coordination between public transit and human services transportation needs.

The board’s meeting also included, for the first time, literal buttons. The board convened a meeting for the first time at its new meeting location – the Ann Arbor District Library’s board room – which is equipped with video recording equipment, including buttons used by meeting participants to turn their microphones on and off.

And some remarks by a public speaker pushed the wrong button for David Nacht, who responded to the speaker’s remarks by saying that attitudes reflecting age-based discrimination were not appropriate. [Full Story]

Library Board: Invest in Current Building?

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Sept. 20, 2010): A request to replace an aging chiller – the piece of equipment that acts as an air-conditioner for the downtown library – led to a broader discussion among library board members on Monday night about how much they should invest in a building that not long ago they planned to demolish.

Ann Arbor District Library building at Fifth & William

The Ann Arbor District Library building, on the northeast corner of Fifth & William. (Photos by the writer.)

They ultimately approved replacing the chiller for $108,555 – but also agreed to plan a retreat where they’ll discuss the issue of the downtown building in depth. The retreat will be scheduled sometime after the Nov. 2 election, when seven candidates will vie for four seats. In addition to the four incumbents running – Jan Barney Newman, Barbara Murphy, Carola Stearns and Ed Surovell – two other candidates attended Monday’s meeting in the audience: Vivienne Armentrout and Lyn Powrie Davidge. Nancy Kaplan is also running for a board seat.

The board heard a report that employee benefits are over budget, primarily due to increased health insurance costs. The administration has addressed that issue by changing the insurance options for its non-union employees, a move that’s expected to bring the expense back to its budgeted amount by the end of the fiscal year.

Also during Monday’s meeting, the board and staff heard a presentation by Stearns, a geologist, who described the effects of glaciers on this region’s topography, in part by looking at the layers of earth exposed during excavation for the underground parking garage being built adjacent to the downtown library building. [Full Story]

UM Regents Updated: Research, Renovations

University of Michigan Board of Regents meeting (Sept. 16, 2010): This month’s public meeting of the regents lasted just over an hour and included some unusual elements, along with the usual fare.

Royster Harper, Kelly Cunningham, Chris Armstrong

Chris Armstrong, right, president of the Michigan Student Assembly, talks with Royster Harper and Kelly Cunningham before the Sept. 16 UM Board of Regents meeting. Harper is vice president for student affairs. Cunningham is director of UM's Office of Public Affairs. (Photos by the writer)

Board chair Julia Darlow read a brief statement near the start of the meeting, stating support for anyone in the university community who comes under attack for their identity – an oblique reference to what’s been characterized as the cyber-bullying of Chris Armstrong, the Michigan Student Assembly president. Armstrong, who is gay, is the target of  the “Chris Armstrong Watch” blog, maintained by Andrew Shirvell, a state assistant attorney general.

Later in the meeting during his regular report on MSA activities, Armstrong criticized the Ann Arbor city council for its recent proposal to ban porch couches, noting that although he planned to meet with some councilmembers later that day, they had not consulted students before taking action on the issue. At their Sept. 20 meeting, council is expected to vote on an ordinance amendment to ban upholstered furniture on porches.

Also during Thursday’s meeting, regents approved renovations and upgrades for several facilities on campus. The vote for a high-profile project to add permanent night lighting at Michigan Stadium passed without comment, while a seemingly innocuous elevator replacement at South Quad yielded an uncharacteristic, albeit relatively brief, discussion about long-term planning for the renovation of that dorm.

Regents heard a presentation about the research work being done at UM’s Institute for Social Research, given by ISR’s director, James Jackson. They also heard from Stephen Forrest, UM’s vice president for research, that the university had for a second year passed the $1 billion mark in research expenditures for fiscal 2009-10, increasing 12% over the previous year.

Not faring as well are donations to the university. Jerry May, vice president for development, reported that contributions dropped 4% to $254 million during 2009-10, which ended June. 30. However, there was an uptick in the last half of that fiscal year and the first two months of this year, which May described as “very healthy.”

The meeting concluded with one speaker during public commentary. Douglas Smith criticized regents Andrew Richner and Andrea Fischer Newman for, among other things, failing to deliver on a campaign promise to hold tuition increases to the rate of inflation. Noting that the two Republicans were running for re-election, he urged the public to vote against them in November. After his remarks, three of the Democrats on the board came to the two Republicans’ defense. [Full Story]

AAPS Special Meeting Time Changed

An Ann Arbor Public Schools special board meeting previously scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 24 has been changed to tonight, Monday, Aug. 23, at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will take place at the Balas administration building main conference room, 2555 S. State St.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss a draft of a request for proposals (RFP) for search firms to assist with the hiring of a new superintendent to replace Todd Roberts, who recently announced his resignation. In November, Roberts is moving back to his hometown of Durham, N.C. to become chancellor of the North Carolina School for Science and Math. [Full Story]

DDA Approves Grant for Zingerman’s

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (July 7, 2010): In the main business at its regular monthly meeting, the DDA board approved a grant of up to $407,000 in support of a brownfield application by Zingerman’s Deli, which the deli is making to the state of Michigan. The board’s deliberations focused on the public improvements to sidewalks, curb ramps and signage as contrasted with the funding for LEED certification costs – a question of public versus private benefit.

John Splitt Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority

At his last meeting as chair of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board, John Splitt shows off the tchotchke of appreciation he was given by executive director Susan Pollay. The board is a piece of the kind of lumber currently being used for the earth retention system in construction of the Fifth Avenue underground parking garage. To the right of the frame is Joan Lowenstein, who was elected chair of the board for the coming year. (Photo by the writer.)

The board also approved a recommendation for details of a payment-in-lieu-of-parking (PILOP) program that allows developers to build fewer parking spaces than otherwise prescribed by the zoning code. The program recommended by the DDA allows for developers to replace required on-site spaces with monthly permits – plus a 25% surcharge – in parking structures managed by the DDA.

The DDA made the recommendation to the city’s planning department because the department had requested the DDA’s input on PILOP after the city’s new rezoning of downtown A2D2 was approved last year by city council.

The board also approved revisions to the FY 2010 budget so that expenditures do not exceed budgeted amounts.

Immediately following the regular monthly meeting, the board held its annual meeting, during which executive director Susan Pollay ticked through the significant accomplishments of the board over the last year. Officers elected for the next year are: chair, Joan Lowenstein; vice chair, Gary Boren; treasurer, Roger Hewitt; secretary, Russ Collins.

Board member Newcombe Clark pointedly abstained from each of the four officer votes. [Full Story]