Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority finds a solution all by itself. [Bus with ad wrap: "Solutions" on a tow truck.] [photo]
A settlement has now been reached in a lawsuit over the placing of an anti-Israel advertisement on Ann Arbor buses. The court’s July 17, 2013 settlement order states that the parties have agreed that the case will be “dismissed with prejudice and without costs or fees.” [.pdf of July 17, 2013 settlement order]
In an email responding to an inquiry from The Chronicle, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Dan Korobkin, who represented plaintiff Blaine Coleman in the case against the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, stated: “After the court ruled that AATA’s advertising policy was unconstitutional, AATA made significant changes to its policy based on the ruling and current case law. Both sides decided that a settlement was appropriate, and we ultimately reached an agreement that worked for everyone.”
Korobkin added: “I am able to say that Mr. Coleman did not ask for any payment as part of the settlement, and that the ACLU accepted payment for some of its expenses and attorneys’ fees.”
In 2011, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority had refused to place the ad on its buses as a part of its advertising program. The proposed ad reads “Boycott ‘Israel’” and “Boycott Apartheid” and features an image of a spider-like creature with a skull for a head. [.pdf of image and text of proposed ad]
According to AATA controller Phil Webb, the AATA is currently projecting that its net revenue from the advertising program – which is managed under a contract with CBS Outdoor Advertising – will come to about $276,000 for the fiscal year. This is the first year of the contract with CBS Outdoor. Compared with the previous contractor, CBS is generating about 2.5 times as much revenue to the AATA. [.pdf of billings through May 2013]
The lawsuit was filed by Coleman – an Ann Arbor resident who was represented by the ACLU – over a year and a half ago, on Nov. 28, 2011.
The case had remained in the preliminary injunction phase and had not yet proceeded to trial. Before the settlement, the most recent court action had come in early June, after a four-month pause in activity. In his June 4, 2013 ruling, federal judge Mark Goldsmith did not agree with the ACLU’s argument that the preliminary injunctive relief to which Coleman was entitled should take the form of placing the ad on AATA buses.
Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board special meeting (Jan. 3, 2013): The board had a single item on the agenda for a special meeting that had been announced on Dec. 27. That item was to convene a closed session as allowed under Michigan’s Open Meetings Act – to consider pending litigation.
After about two hours in closed session, the board emerged and voted unanimously to reject – for a second time – an advertisement that had been submitted by Ann Arbor resident Blaine Coleman for placement on the sides of AATA buses. The ad included the text “Boycott ‘Israel’ Boycott Apartheid” and a graphic that depicts a scorpion-like creature.
Both the text and the image figured into reasoning for the board’s decision to reject the ad – based on a new advertising policy that the AATA board adopted in November. [See Chronicle coverage: “AATA Adopts New Advertising Policy”]
The board’s resolution stressed that there were two reasons for rejecting the advertisement, either of which the board considered to be sufficient on its own to warrant rejection. First, the proposed ad violates the policy’s provision against political advertisements. Second, the advertisement is likely to hold up a group to scorn or ridicule, according to the board’s resolution – by dint of the enclosure of the word “Israel” in quotes, and the inclusion of the image. [.pdf of new ad policy, with changes indicated]
The AATA board reconsidered the advertisement using the new policy because of a court order issued on Dec. 17. [.pdf of Dec. 17, 2012 court order] That order came from judge Mark Goldsmith of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, who’s presiding over the case. The reconsideration of the ad is part of the injunctive relief that Goldsmith is proposing, having ruled in favor of Coleman on his request for a preliminary injunction. Granting the preliminary injunction was based on Goldsmith’s finding that the AATA’s old advertising policy was in part unconstitutional. Coleman’s requested relief, however, was for the AATA to run the advertisement. Goldsmith has not yet explicitly ruled on that request.
Under the court order, the AATA had until Jan. 4 to notify Coleman of its decision on the re-submitted advertisement.
A status conference scheduled for Jan. 9 will focus on whether the injunctive relief that’s been granted thus far is sufficient, and will allow the parties to talk to each other and the judge about how they’d like to move forward. The lawsuit, filed in late 2011, has not yet proceeded to trial. However, the legal standard of review for granting Coleman’s motion for a preliminary injunction is based in part on the likelihood that Coleman would prevail, if the case were to go to trial.
Public commentary at the Jan. 3 special meeting of the AATA board was focused on the possible conflict of interest that judge Goldsmith has, given his membership in various Jewish organizations.
After a closed session lasting about two hours, the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority voted unanimously to reject an advertisement submitted by Ann Arbor resident Blaine Coleman for placement on the sides of its buses. The ad included the text “Boycott ‘Israel’ Boycott Apartheid.” The vote came at a special meeting held on Jan. 3, 2013 at 4 p.m. at the AATA headquarters at 2700 S. Industrial Highway.
The vote came in the context of a lawsuit against the AATA – over the rejection of the same advertisement over a year ago. The current reconsideration of the ad came under a court order. It was reconsidered under the criteria set forth in a newly revised advertising policy, which the board adopted in …
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 …
A special meeting of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board has been called for Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012 starting at 4 p.m. at the AATA headquarters, 2700 S. Industrial Highway. The meeting, which was announced via email on Nov. 21, did not have an agenda set until Nov. 28. The agenda includes a closed session and an item that would revise the AATA’s advertising policy. [.pdf of board packet, including revised advertising policy]
The board’s meeting comes in the context of a legal case that’s pending against the AATA for refusing to run an advertisement on the sides of its buses that states, “Boycott ‘Israel.’” The initial substantive ruling in the case went against the AATA, when the judge …
Additional briefs have now been filed by the parties in a bus advertising lawsuit – in response to a court ruling against the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority issued on Sept. 28, 2012.
Plaintiff Blaine Coleman had attempted to purchase an advertisement on AATA buses that included the text “Boycott ‘Israel’ Boycott Apartheid,” and an image depicting a scorpion-like creature with a skull for a head. [.pdf of image and text of proposed ad] Coleman filed suit last year on Nov. 28, 2011.
In the Sept. 28 ruling, Mark Goldsmith of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan denied the AATA’s motion to dismiss the case. Goldsmith also granted plaintiff Blaine Coleman’s request for a preliminary injunction. But Goldsmith did …
Ann Arbor Transportation Authority special board meeting (Sept. 5, 2012): At a meeting called for the purpose of ratifying and releasing the final draft of a 5-year service plan, the four members of the AATA board who attended voted unanimously to approve its release. [.pdf of final 5-year transit program] Publication of the 5-year plan is a required part of the AATA’s possible transition into a new transit authority with a broader governance and service area – to be called The Washtenaw Ride.
According to a press release announcing the 5-year service plan’s final draft, a millage to support The Washtenaw Ride could be placed on the ballot by May 2013.
The estimated cost of the service in the plan is now 0.584 mills, an increase of 0.084 mills compared to the estimated cost in a draft plan that was released in April. Compared to the draft plan, the final version also includes several additional services, which were added based on input from district advisory committees (DACs).
The 5-year service plan includes: (1) countywide demand-responsive services and feeder services; (2) express bus services and local transit hub services; (3) local community connectors and local community circulators; (4) park-and-ride intercept lots; and (5) urban bus network enhancements. For Ann Arbor, the program includes increased bus frequencies on key corridors, increased operating hours, and more services on weekends. According to the Sept. 5 press release, Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti will get a 56% increase in service hours compared to current levels.
The possible transition from the AATA to The Washtenaw Ride will take place under the framework of a four-party agreement between the city of Ypsilanti, the city of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County and the AATA.
The other vote taken by the AATA board at its Sept. 5 meeting stemmed from a formal protest in connection with the AATA’s award of a contract for handling advertising on its buses – to CBS Outdoor Advertising of Lexington, New York. The contract previously had been held by Transit Advertising Group Ann Arbor (TAG).
TAG president Randy Oram addressed the board during public commentary at the Sept. 5 meeting. Also during the meeting, AATA CEO Michael Ford pointed the board to his written response to the protest and asked board members to uphold his decision to award the contract to CBS. The board voted in a formal resolution to support the advertising contract award to CBS.
Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Aug. 16, 2012): The AATA board achieved its minimum quorum of four out of seven members at its monthly meeting. But they were joined by three as-yet non-voting members of a possible new transit authority, The Washtenaw Ride – which could have a countywide governance structure and service area.
As part of that goal of establishing the new authority, the AATA board gave final approval to a four-party agreement – between the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County and the AATA. The agreement would establish a framework for the transition of the AATA to a transit authority incorporated under Act 196 of 1986 – to be called The Washtenaw Ride. That authority would have a 15-member board.
An unincorporated version of the Washtenaw Ride’s board (the U196) has been meeting since late 2011. The three guests at the table for the Aug. 16 AATA board meeting are representatives of three districts in the possible new authority: Karen Lovejoy Roe (Southeast District), Bob Mester (West District) and David Phillips (Northeast District).
Those three were not there to vote, and did not participate in deliberations, though they could have. However, Lovejoy Roe – who serves as Ypsilanti Township clerk, an elected position – gave one of the most enthusiastic statements of support for the countywide initiative that’s been heard at the AATA board table over the last two years. “I’m just really excited about where we’re headed as a community, as a county at large. I know that there’s been a lot of hiccups, but I think that that’s normal … I’m committed, and I think that those who’ve asked me to be here working willingly and openly to do what’s best for all county residents [are, too] …”
One element of the 30-year vision that the AATA has developed for countywide transportation is a north-south commuter rail connection between Ann Arbor and Howell, in Livingston County. And the planning effort was given continued support at the Aug. 16 meeting when the board awarded a $105,200 contract to SmithGroupJJR for station location and design services in connection with the WALLY (Washtenaw and Livingston Railway) project.
That overall planning effort was given a boost by a somewhat unexpected $640,000 federal grant to the AATA and Michigan Dept. of Transportation. The grant was awarded on Aug. 6, 2012 under the Transportation, Community and System Preservation (TCSP) program. AATA had applied for the grant last November, but did not have high expectations, given the competitive nature of the grants.
In other business, the board decided to accept a non-applicable penalty – which has no actual impact – and not comply with Michigan’s Public Act 192 for its unionized employees. The act mandates limits on how much public employers can contribute to their employee health care costs. The decision was essentially based on deference to a federal law that applies to agencies receiving federal funding – like the AATA. That federal law requires benefits like health care to be collectively bargained, not stipulated. Under the state law, failure by the AATA to comply would just mean that it would be denied state funds to which it is not even entitled.
In the meeting’s other business item, the AATA approved a three-year contract with CBS Outdoor Advertising of Lexington, New York, to handle placement of ads on its buses and bus stops. That’s a change from the previous contract, which was held by Transit Advertising Group (TAG) of Farmington Hills, Mich.
At its Aug. 16, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board authorized a three-year contract with CBS Outdoor Advertising of Lexington, New York, to handle placement of ads on its buses and bus stops. That’s a change from Transit Advertising Group (TAG) of Farmington Hills, Mich.
The contract had been previously held by TAG for the last seven years, but expired. The AATA selected CBS Outdoor Advertising from seven respondents to an RFP (request for proposals). The contract required board approval because the amount of revenue generated from the contract is expected to exceed $100,000 for the three-year period of the contract.
In the most recent court action connected to a lawsuit filed against the AATA over an advertisement rejected for …