Stories indexed with the term ‘incompatible offices’

Positions Open: New Transit Authority Board

Articles of incorporation for a new Act 196 transit authority, called The Washtenaw Ride, were filed with the state last week, on Oct. 3, 2012. The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority had hoped the new authority’s board would convene on Oct. 11, but that meeting was cancelled because key appointments to that board have not yet been made.

Simultaneous service on the 15-member Washtenaw Ride (Act 196) board and the AATA board generated legal questions.

Simultaneous service on the 15-member Washtenaw Ride (Act 196) board and the seven-member AATA board generated legal questions. (Illustration by The Chronicle.)

It was previously assumed that the seven Ann Arbor appointments to the new authority’s 15-member board would serve simultaneously on AATA’s board. Now, it appears that different appointments will be made.

Responding to an emailed query from The Chronicle, Ann Arbor mayor John Hieftje wrote late Friday afternoon: “On Monday night [at the council's Oct. 15 meeting] I will put out a call for applications to serve on the 196 Board. I will not be appointing anyone to that board who would also sit on the AATA Board.”

An application for all city boards and commissions is available on the city clerk’s website.

An informal 15-member group has been meeting as the board of the unincorporated authority for around a year. Some members of the AATA board and many others had assumed that upon incorporation, the informal group would become automatically installed as the board of the new Act 196 authority. However, that won’t be the case. Ann Arbor’s seven representatives to the new authority’s board first need to be nominated by the mayor and confirmed by the city council – under terms of a four-party agreement ratified between the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County and the AATA.

More significantly, according to several sources, the apparent current view of the Ann Arbor city attorney’s office is that service on the AATA board is not legally compatible with simultaneous service on the board of the new transit authority. So appointing seven Ann Arbor members to the new authority’s board would require nominating seven individuals who are different from those who might continue to serve on the seven-member AATA board.

Another issue apparently identified by the city attorney’s office is the fact that Act 196 of 1986 refers to an additional 30-day window for a jurisdiction in the county to opt out of inclusion in the new transit authority – a window that has not yet opened. Letters of notification sent by the AATA in late September to all jurisdictions in the county referred to a statutory 30-day window starting with the filing of the articles of incorporation. But Act 196 also requires that the new transit authority itself notify jurisdictions, which also triggers a 30-day window for opting out. The statute makes clear that it’s the later of the two windows that is relevant. Because the new transit authority does not yet have a seated board, it has not yet acted to notify jurisdictions countywide.

In any case, some jurisdictions have already opted out of the new Act 196 authority. The Northfield Township clerk’s office responded to a Chronicle phone query with confirmation that on Oct. 9, the township board decided to withdraw from the new authority on a 4-0 vote. The Chronicle has as-yet-unconfirmed reports that the boards of Salem Township and Manchester Township have also voted to opt out.

Another wrinkle: The change in composition of the Ann Arbor city council after the Nov. 6 election. Councilmember Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) has told The Chronicle that he would like to pursue the possibility of Ann Arbor opting out – and he thinks there might be six votes on the new council to accomplish that. If Ann Arbor opted out, it would effectively end the initiative. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Adds Flashers, Alters Traffic Law

Ann Arbor city council meeting (Dec. 19, 2011): At its last meeting of the year, the council ended the current round of discussion on the city’s pedestrian safety ordinance by finalizing changes that clarified conditions under which vehicles are required to stop for people who are trying to cross the street.

Jane Lumm crosswalk ordinance approaching air quotes

Jane Lumm (Ward 2) made air quotes around the word "approaching" as the council discussed the city's ordinance on crosswalks. (Photos by the writer.)

The current ordinance amendment maintains an existing requirement that motorists accommodate not just pedestrians who are “within” a crosswalk, but also those who are verging on entering a crosswalk. What’s different is the way the concept is expressed. In July 2010, the council chose to describe pedestrians who are about to enter a crosswalk as “approaching” the crosswalk. The version of the ordinance finalized on Dec. 19 requires motorists to accommodate “… a pedestrian stopped at the curb, curb line or ramp leading to a crosswalk and to every pedestrian within a crosswalk …”

As part of the previous amendments made in 2010, the council also had removed language that specified a half of the roadway where drivers needed to accommodate pedestrians. This time around, the council restored similar language, which reads, “… when the pedestrian is on the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.”

In other crosswalk-related business, the council approved an expenditure of $81,000 to install five rectangular rapid flashing beacons (RRFB) on existing pedestrian islands in the city. Four of the locations are along Plymouth Road, at Georgetown, Traver Village, Beal and Bishop. The fifth location is at Seventh and Washington.

Also at the Dec. 19 meeting, the council ended a long process of review by the city and negotiation with neighbors by approving a change to the zoning of the Hoover Mansion property on Washtenaw Avenue, which University Bank uses as its headquarters. The change will allow University Bank to build 13 new parking spaces on the east side – behind the main building, allowing the bank in accommodate expanded employment.

Towards the end of the council’s meeting, a relatively rare debate unfolded about a mayoral nomination to a city board. At issue was the nomination of a city employee – transportation program manager Eli Cooper – to the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. He’s replacing another city employee on the board, public services area administrator Sue McCormick, who left her position with the city in mid-December. In the end, Cooper’s nomination was confirmed with dissent from two councilmembers. A separate vote on a general policy opposing nominations of city employees to boards and commissions received only four votes of support.

The council considered two compensation-related issues – one for its city attorney, Stephen Postema, and another for election workers who staff the polls. After a closed session to discuss Postema’s performance review, the council voted with dissent from one councilmember to award Postema the ability to cash out 250 hours of banked time. The council delayed its vote on pay increases for election workers, on the possibility that their pay could be increased more than what’s proposed, to match the amount specified in the city’s living wage ordinance.

In other business, the council approved a bond re-funding, authorized reimbursement for a broken electromagnet at the materials recovery facility, accepted additional federal money for solar projects, and heard about a possible strategy for addressing vacant and dilapidated properties. [Full Story]