Stories indexed with the term ‘city council appointments’

Tussle over Environmental Appointments to Come

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

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

City Council Debates Utility Connection Costs

Ann Arbor city council meeting (Jan. 22, 2013): One item on the consent agenda was responsible for extending the city council’s meeting by at least 40 minutes – the annual setting of fixed charges for water main and sanitary sewer improvements. The council chose not to approve the increase that had been calculated by city staff. That left the charges at their current levels – $15,552 and $24,665 for water and sewer, respectively – instead of raising them by just under 3% to $15,967 and $25,370, respectively.

Ann Arbor Water Main and Sanitary Sewer Fixed Charges: 2004 to present.

Ann Arbor water main and sanitary sewer fixed charges: 2004 to present. The proposed increase indicated for 2013 was not adopted by the city council at its Jan. 22 meeting.

The charges are due when a single- or two-family property connects to water and sewer for the first time. The charges are paid by either the contractor/developer or the property owner, depending on who makes the request for a connection.

Consent agenda items – a subset of the council’s business – are by definition voted on as a group, but councilmembers can choose to pull out items from the consent agenda for separate discussion.

That’s what happened at the Jan. 22 meeting. After an attempt to postpone the item failed, the council simply chose not to adopt the increases. But councilmembers were split on the question, with Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5), Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and mayor John Hieftje voting for the increased charges. Arguments against the increase were based on the amount of the increases, their possible impact on the likelihood of infill development in lower-income neighborhoods, and the fairness of charging new connections for depreciation costs.

The other major chunk of the council’s meeting was devoted to a briefing from Washtenaw County sheriff Jerry Clayton on the transition of police dispatch operations for the city to the sheriff’s office – Washtenaw Metro Dispatch (WMD). Highlights of that presentation included benchmark metrics. For example, WMD answers 97% of all calls within 20 seconds (4 rings). Total call processing time – from when the call is received until some unit is dispatched – ranges from 2.2 minutes for robberies to 5.16 minutes for disorderly conduct calls. According to Clayton, over the last six months since operations have been shifted to WMD from Ann Arbor police dispatch, the cost per 911 call has been decreased by more than half – from just under $40 per call to around $16 a call.

The council also established a project planning budget for a sidewalk on a quarter-mile stretch of Newport Road just north of Wines Elementary School. In other business, the council approved establishing a residential parking district off Washtenaw Avenue southeast of the University of Michigan campus, because streets in the neighborhood were being effectively used as a commuter parking lot for students taking the bus further into campus.

The new residential parking district is located in a neighborhood in the vicinity of the Beth Israel Congregation. Beth Israel came up during communications time as Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) responded to public commentary critical of him for not yet bringing a resolution to the council table on the topic of Palestinian rights. Warpehoski essentially indicated he would not be contemplating such a resolution as long as demonstrations continue outside Beth Israel on Saturdays during worship services.

Half of the public commentary at the start of the meeting was on the topic of a proposed dog park – in West Park, across the street from the New Hope Baptist Church. The proposal had been expected by supporters to be on the council’s agenda, but it had not been included. So some turned out to urge council to pursue a dog park at that location. Others simply advocated for establishing a centrally-located dog park somewhere in the city.

The decision to pull the item from the agenda had come after the city’s park advisory commission had voted in December to recommend establishing a dog park in the West Park location for a one-year trial period. But subsequently, parks staff and commission leaders were convinced by members of the New Hope congregation not to push the proposal ahead for consideration by the city council. [Full Story]

Housing Commission Eyes Major Transition

Changes are underway that could be transformative for Ann Arbor’s public housing system, taking advantage of a new federal program that might result in private financing for capital improvements in aging housing stock.

Rochelle Lento, Ann Arbor Housing Commission, public housing, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Rochelle Lento, right, is an attorney with Dykema who is doing pro bono work for the Ann Arbor housing commission. Seated next to her is Margie Teall, Ward 4 city councilmember and council liaison to the commission. Next to Teall is Kevin McDonald, senior assistant city attorney. The commission’s Nov. 14 meeting was held at Miller Manor, one of the city’s public housing complexes.

The Ann Arbor housing commission is the local agency responsible for administering the city’s federally-funded public housing and Section 8 rent subsidies for low-income residents. It manages 360 public housing units, including large complexes like Baker Commons at Main and Packard. Most of its properties were built in the 1960s and 1970s, and are in need of serious maintenance and upgrades that aren’t covered by federal funding.

To address this issue, the AAHC has applied for a new program offered by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The rental assistance demonstration program, known as RAD, is a mechanism to convert public housing units into public/private developments that in turn provide rental assistance through long-term Section 8 subsidy vouchers that are tied to those developments. It would also mean that ownership of some Ann Arbor public housing properties would be transferred to a new entity, in which the AAHC would have only a small ownership stake – likely 1% or less. The arrangement would give AAHC access to private financing to renovate the current public housing properties, using tax credit financing, loans, equity or grants that are not otherwise available to the housing commission.

HUD is expected to inform AAHC this month about whether it’s been selected for the program.

Last month, the housing commission board took additional action to lay the groundwork for these changes. The board approved amendments to bylaws and articles of incorporation for an AAHC nonprofit subsidiary – the Ann Arbor Housing Development Corp. – which will serve as the entity to enter into partnerships for these RAD projects. Rochelle Lento, a Dykema attorney who’s doing pro bono work for the housing commission, described it as a way to protect the AAHC from liabilities associated with entering a public/private partnership.

The five-member board will also be voting to select a co-developer and consultant for this effort, from a list of nine entities that responded to a recent request for proposals (RFP). Respondents included the local nonprofit Avalon Housing and a subsidiary of the construction firm JC Beal Construction.

The housing commission board is appointed by the Ann Arbor city council, but the council has a limited role in authorizing actions related to the RAD program. Current AAHC board members are Ron Woods, Marta Manildi, Gloria Black, Leigh Greden and Andy LaBarre.

However, at the end of the Nov. 14 meeting LaBarre announced his plans to resign from the commission. He noted that he’d recently been elected to the Washtenaw County board of commissioners, and needed to focus on what he’d been elected to do. LaBarre, a Democrat, won the District 7 seat on the county board in the Nov. 6 general election. It’s one of three districts that cover Ann Arbor. His two-year term begins in January of 2013. No nomination has yet been made for his replacement. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Council Decides Committees

The internal committees of the Ann Arbor city council – as well as the council’s appointments to other bodies – were decided at the council’s Dec. 3, 2012 meeting. It was the second meeting of the new edition of the council, following the Nov. 6 elections. The departure of Tony Derezinski, Sandi Smith and Carsten Hohnke from the council meant that some changes had to be made.

The budget committee saw no changes from last year: Mike Anglin, Sabra Briere, Marcia Higgins, Jane Lumm, and Christopher Taylor.

Added to the audit committee to replace Sandi Smith and Carsten Hohnke, as well as Sabra Briere, were Chuck Warpehoski, Sumi Kailasapathy, and Sally Petersen. Other members of the audit committee are Stephen Kunselman and … [Full Story]

Brown Recommended for N. Main Group

At its May 23, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor public art commission (AAPAC) unanimously recommended that Connie Rizzolo Brown be nominated for a position on a task force to study the corridor along North Main Street and the Huron River. That recommendation will be forwarded to mayor John Hieftje.

The task force was established by the city council at its May 7, 2012 meeting, with membership to include the following: one member of the park advisory commission, one member of the planning commission, one resident representing the Water Hill neighborhood, one resident representing the North Central neighborhood, one resident from the Old Fourth Ward, one resident representing the Broadway/Pontiac neighborhood, two business and property owners from the affected area, and one member of … [Full Story]

Positions Added to North Main Task Force

At its May 21, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council added four positions to a task force to study the corridor along North Main Street and the Huron River – a member of the city council, someone from the boating/fishing community of river users, a representative from the Huron River Citizens Association, and a member of the Ann Arbor public art commission (AAPAC).

The member from AAPAC was added by a 6-5 vote that amended the original resolution. Voting for the additional member were Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), Margie Teall (Ward 4), Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5), Mike Anglin (Ward 5), and mayor John Hiefjte.

When the task force was established at the council’s May 7, 2012 meeting, … [Full Story]

Council OKs Greenbelt Reappointments

At its May 21, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council unanimously approved the reappointment of Peter Allen and Catherine Riseng to the city’s greenbelt advisory commission. The group is responsible for overseeing the use of the city’s open space and parkland preservation millage.

The greenbelt advisory commission is one of the few boards and commissions for which the nominations to serve come from the city council as a body, not from the mayor. The item had been on the council’s agenda at its May 7 meeting – but only inadvertently. It had been intended only as a communication item. The council voted to postpone consideration of the reappointment until the May 21 meeting.

The commission’s membership is defined in terms of … [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Appoints Liquor Hearing Officer

At its Feb. 6, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council voted to appoint councilmember Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) as the hearing officer for annual liquor license renewal and revocation. Derezinski serves on the council’s liquor license review committee along with Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Jane Lumm (Ward 2). The council also voted to set the fee for transcripts of any hearings to be equal to the actual cost charged by the transcription service for the work.

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]

Art Lobby Averts Temporary Funding Cut

Ann Arbor city council meeting (Dec. 5, 2011): In a meeting that pushed well past midnight, the Ann Arbor city council backed off making a temporary reduction to the city’s public art funding.

Marsha Chamberlin Christopher Taylor

Marsha Chamberlin and Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) before the start of the Ann Arbor city council's Dec. 5 meeting. Chamberlin is chair of the Ann Arbor public art commission. (Photos by the writer.)

At its Nov. 21 meeting, the council had given initial approval to ordinance revisions that included temporarily reducing the required 1% allocation to public art from all city capital improvement projects, dropping the amount to 0.5% for the period from 2012 to 2015. Neither that provision, nor one that would have required allocated funds to be spent on public art within a specific period of time, survived a final vote. What did survive was a prohibition against using general fund dollars for public art projects, as well as an exclusion of sidewalk repair from the definition of projects triggering the public art requirement.

Councilmembers who had previously argued for the temporary reduction, but changed their positions after intense lobbying by the arts community – both privately and at the lengthy public hearing – included Sandi Smith (Ward 1), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and mayor John Hieftje. All face possible re-election campaigns in 2012. Questions about the legal foundation of Ann Arbor’s public art program, which taps utility fees and dedicated millage funds to pay for public art, were raised again at the meeting by Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3).

In other significant business, the council gave final approval to an expansion of the area around Ann Arbor that is eligible for protection using funds from the voter-approved greenbelt millage.

The council also approved its side of a deal to contract out Ann Arbor police dispatching services to the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office – at an annual cost of $759,089. The city expects eventually to save $500,000 a year with the move, which will entail laying off all of the city’s current dispatchers, not all of whom would be able to obtain employment within the expanded sheriff’s office dispatch operation.

The council also formally tabled a proposed ordinance that would have provided residents with the ability to forbid the delivery of newspapers to their property – by posting a notice on their front doors. The city’s code already prohibits depositing newspapers onto sidewalks.

A sidewalk along Dexter Avenue, east of Maple Road, was the subject of a special tax authorized by the council to be applied to property owners there. The city will use the funds to construct a continuous sidewalk along that stretch, and make curb and gutter improvements.

The council took care of several housekeeping issues, including approving its set of rules for the coming year and making its committee appointments. Those included the appointment of Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) as the council representative to the board of the local development finance authority – replacing Stephen Rapundalo, who was defeated by Jane Lumm (Ward 2) in the Nov. 8 election. But Rapundalo was appointed as a citizen representative to the board and will thus continue to serve on that body. Council committee appointments were only slightly shuffled, because Lumm was assigned to a number of spots Rapundalo had previously filled.

At the end of the meeting, Hieftje announced a nomination to replace Sue McCormick on the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority – Eli Cooper. Cooper has previously served on the AATA board and is the city’s transportation program manager.

Highlights during public commentary included advocacy for a 24/7 warming shelter to be staffed by volunteers from the community, and support for 14-year Ann Arbor resident Lourdes Salazar Bautista, who faces deportation later this month. [Full Story]

Council Appoints Committee Members

At its Dec. 5, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council voted to approve the city council committee assignments for 2012. Some assignments are for subcommittees of the council, while others are for city council appointments to other public bodies.

Compared to last year, the most significant change to the council’s committee structure was the separation of the joint administration and labor committee into a council administration committee and a council labor committee. On the labor side, Jane Lumm (Ward 2) was slotted in for Stephen Rapundalo, whom she defeated in the Nov. 8 election. Shuffling among other councilmembers, who all returned to this edition of the council, included the replacement of Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) on the labor committee by Sandi Smith (Ward 1).

The council administration committee retains the same membership as the former administration and labor committee, except for Rapundalo, who was replaced by Christopher Taylor (Ward 3). Taylor also took over Rapundalo’s council appointment to the local development finance authority (LDFA) board. [Google spreadsheet contrasting 2011 with 2012 city council appointments]

Changes to committee assignments were on the whole relatively minimal. That was due in part to the fact that Lumm was given four of Rapundalo’s previous committee appointments, including labor budget, liquor control, and housing & human services advisory board. Lumm was also assigned to represent the city council on the Ann Arbor downtown development authority’s (DDA) partnerships committee, relieving Margie Teall (Ward 4) of that duty.

Teall will also no longer represent the council on the Washtenaw Metro Alliance – Sabra Briere (Ward 1) will pick up that responsibility. Of the veteran councilmembers, Teall’s committee assignments reduced the most, as she’ll also no longer serve on the city environmental commission – a spot also picked up by Briere. Teall – along with Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) and Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) – will also no longer need to serve on the committee established by the council to negotiate a new contract with the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority under which the DDA operates the city’s public parking system. At the Dec. 5 meeting, the council formally dissolved the committee, the parking contract having been signed in May.

At the meeting the council also adopted its rules, which included essentially one change. Included in council minutes currently are all emails received by councilmembers on their government accounts. The revision to the rules stipulates that only those emails related to the subject matter of the meeting will be included in the meeting minutes.

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]