Stories indexed with the term ‘deportation’

Ann Arbor Shifts Transit Gear to Neutral

Ann Arbor city council meeting (Jan. 23, 2012): At its meeting last week, the council again delayed action on a four-party agreement that would establish a framework for a transition of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority to a countywide governance incorporated under Michigan’s Act 196 of 1986.

In this action shot from city council chambers, a paper copy of an amendment to the text of the four-party transit agreement is handed from city clerk Jackie Beaudry to Jane Lumm (Ward 3).

In this action shot from city council chambers, a paper copy of an amendment to the text of the four-party transit agreement is handed from city clerk Jackie Beaudry to councilmember Jane Lumm (Ward 2). In the background are Ward 1 councilmembers Sandi Smith (left) and Sabra Briere. (Photos by the writer.)

The council postponed action until its Feb. 6 meeting, but not before undertaking several amendments to the text of the agreement. The council had previously postponed action at its Jan. 9 meeting and had set a public hearing for Jan. 23. Thirty-nine people appeared before the council to speak during the hearing, and some of those people also reprised their remarks during public comment at the conclusion of the meeting. Fourteen of the speakers were either current or former elected or appointed public officials, or former candidates for public office.

The four-party agreement would be between the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County.

A delay was warranted from the perspective of some councilmembers, who wanted to hear the recommendation of a financial advisory group. The group has been meeting since the fall of 2011 and was scheduled to hold a final meeting on Jan. 27, four days after the council’s vote to postpone. However, later in the week the financial advisory group also chose to postpone its Jan. 27 meeting, in the wake of a 17-bill package of state legislation introduced on Jan. 26 – part of which would establish a regional transit authority for Washtenaw, Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties and a possible funding mechanism for that authority. It’s not clear if the financial advisory group will meet before the council’s next meeting on Feb. 6.

The council could undertake further amendments to the text of the four-party agreement at its Feb. 6 meeting. In fact, Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) indicated he’d bring forward an amendment to change the composition of the planned new transit authority board, to give Ann Arbor more than the currently proposed seven out of 15 seats, so that Ann Arbor would have a majority.

In other business, the council passed two resolutions as symbolic statements of position. One was to express opposition to Michigan’s Public Act 297, which was signed into law on Dec. 22, 2011. The act prohibits public employers from providing employee medical and fringe benefits to those who are not married to an employee, a dependent of the employee, or eligible to inherit from the employee under the laws of intestate succession.

The law impacts the city of Ann Arbor’s policy of extending benefits to “other qualified adults” – which can include a same-sex domestic partner. The resolution gained unanimous support on the Ann Arbor city council. As Jane Lumm (Ward 2) expressed her concerns about the council’s purview on such a resolution, but ultimately expressed her support for it, Sandi Smith (Ward 1), who is openly gay, was prompted to say, “I love this city!”

The second resolution expressing a position was passed over the dissent of Lumm and Marcia Higgins (Ward 4). It encouraged the federal government to exercise prosecutorial discretion in pursuing the deportation of undocumented immigrants who have not committed serious crimes and who have ties to the community.

The council also approved a contract with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority to supply policing services for the downtown Ann Arbor Blake Transit Center. And the council authorized a $10 million contract for engineering services in connection with the facilities renovation project at the city’s wastewater treatment center.

The meeting was bookended by mentions of the word “dragon” – in separate contexts.  [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]