Stories indexed with the term ‘Jeff Irwin’

Column: Connecting Dots – DDA, FOIA

Some good news for open government came out of Lansing this last week, on Nov. 12.

Extract from Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority records of attendance at committee meetings.

Extract from Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority records of attendance at committee meetings. Scanned by The Chronicle.

A piece of legislation that would “modernize” Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act moved out of the House Oversight Committee.

Progress on that legislation will be interesting to track as the bill possibly makes its way into state law. [.pdf of HB 4001]

For now, I’d like to focus on just one clause of the proposed legislation. And I’d like to connect that to some otherwise unrelated dots, one of which is an upcoming Ann Arbor city council vote.

That vote – on an appointment to the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority – will take place either at the council’s next meeting on Nov. 18 or possibly at its following meeting on Dec. 2. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Dems Do Endorsement Puzzle

At a morning meeting on Saturday, Oct. 12 held at the Ann Arbor Community Center, Ann Arbor Democratic Party members affirmed the party’s endorsement of Kirk Westphal in the Ward 2 city council race. Westphal was unopposed in the Democratic primary held in August and is the Democratic Party nominee on the Nov. 5 ballot.

From left: (1) a puzzle with counting numbers completed multiple times during the meeting by Ann Arbor city councilmember Chuck Warpehoski's daughter; (2) the voting credential that had to be held aloft at the Dems meeting in order for a vote to be counted; and (3) Robert's Rules held aloft as the authority determining that a 2/3 majority of votes would need to be counted, in order for the endorsement to be rescinded.

From left: (1) a puzzle with counting numbers, which was completed multiple times during the meeting by Ann Arbor city councilmember Chuck Warpehoski’s daughter; (2) the voting credential that had to be held aloft at the Dems meeting in order for a vote to be counted; and (3) Robert’s Rules of Order held aloft as the authority determining that a 2/3 majority of votes would need to be counted, in order for the endorsement of Kirk Westphal to be rescinded. (Photos by the writer.)

The party’s executive board had voted on Wednesday to endorse Westphal. But at Saturday’s meeting of the general membership, Jack Eaton – the Democratic nominee for Ward 4 Ann Arbor city council – brought forward a motion to rescind that endorsement of Westphal. His motion was defeated by a vote of the general membership.

Eaton had contested the August primary in Ward 4 with incumbent Democrat Marcia Higgins, and he won the race decisively. He is supporting incumbent independent Jane Lumm against Westphal in the Ward 2 election, as are Democratic councilmembers Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) and some other local Democrats. Lumm served on the council in the mid-1990s as a Republican. Except for Lumm, the entire 11-member council consists of Democrats. The Ward 2 race includes independent Conrad Brown in addition to Lumm and Westphal.

Anglin and Kailasapathy attended the Democratic Party meeting, as did several other councilmembers who have not endorsed Lumm: Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Sally Petersen (Ward 2), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), and Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5). Taylor and Warpehoski have endorsed Westphal.

In rising to express her support for Lumm, lifelong Democrat Jane Michener indicated that she felt Westphal was working toward making the world “safe for developers” instead of on behalf of residents, and that’s why she’s supporting Lumm. Westphal is chair of the city’s planning commission.

To vote on the question of Westphal’s endorsement, attendees held aloft squares with a Democratic logo  – a voting credential issued that morning. With 56 people voting against the motion to rescind – that is, to leave Westphal’s endorsement in place – and only 21 voting to rescind it, a simple majority was not achieved. So the required 2/3 majority was also not achieved.

The question of Westphal’s endorsement came in the context of a meeting that had been billed as “Endorsement Saturday” by the party. Representatives for 2014 campaigns at the state and national level were on hand to deliver remarks and to receive the Ann Arbor Democratic Party’s endorsement.

Not every candidate was on hand in person, but the general membership of the Ann Arbor Democratic Party gave its endorsement to the following: Mark Schauer (governor), Mark Totten (Michigan Attorney General), John Dingell (U.S. House District 12), Pam Byrnes (U.S. House District 7), Gary Peters (U.S. Senate), Gretchen Driskell (Michigan state house representative District 52), Jeff Irwin (Michigan state house representative District 53), and Adam Zemke (Michigan state house representative District 55). [Full Story]

Waste as Resource: Ann Arbor’s 5-Year Plan

Initially scheduled for consideration earlier this summer, a new five-year solid waste plan may now see action by the Ann Arbor city council sometime this fall, according to solid waste manager Tom McMurtrie.

Recycle Ann Arbor booth at the annual Mayor's Green Fair held on June 14, 2013 this year.

The Recycle Ann Arbor booth at the annual Mayor’s Green Fair held this year on June 14. The relative size of the containers reflects the goals for the amount of compostables, recyclables and material to be landfilled. (Photos by the writer.)

The council will be asked to adopt a draft plan that includes a number of initiatives, including goals for increased recycling/diversion rates – generally and for apartment buildings in particular. A pilot program would add all plate scrapings to the materials that can be placed in the brown carts used to collect compostable matter.

And if that pilot program is successful, the plan calls for the possibility of reducing the frequency of curbside pickup – from the current weekly regime to a less frequent schedule. Also included in the draft plan is a proposal to relocate and upgrade the drop-off station at Platt and Ellsworth. The implementation of a fee for single-use bags at retail outlets is also part of the plan.

City staff had originally intended to place the adoption of the solid waste plan on the council’s legislative agenda much earlier than this fall. The work on updating the plan had already begun over 18 months ago, in January 2012. And a bit more than a year later, on Feb. 28, 2013, the city’s environmental commission had voted to recommend that the city council adopt the plan.

This article begins with a look at one reason for the delay – which was not related directly to the plan itself. That’s followed by a brief look at the solid waste fund, which pays for the collection of trash, recyclable materials and yard waste.

Revenue to the fund is then considered in terms of the idea that solid waste is a resource, something that’s reflected in the title of the proposed update to the city’s solid waste plan: “Waste Less: City of Ann Arbor Solid Waste Resource Plan.” In particular, this report looks at a recent $2.50/ton negative impact the fund recently needed to absorb – due to the cancellation of a contract with the company that was purchasing the recycled glass product from Ann Arbor’s materials recovery facility (MRF).

Even though prospects for replacing the contract with a different buyer appear good, the cancellation of that contract highlights a significant consideration: Waste collection services in a local municipality depend in part on revenues that are subject to market forces that can lie beyond the direct control of that municipality.

So one section below takes a look at prospects for developing more influence on the markets – at the level of state economic development efforts. That includes the unintended negative impact that an expansion to the state of Michigan’s bottle bill could have on revenues to local MRFs. One argument for the bottle bill’s expansion is that it will reduce litter from newer types of containers. That’s also one argument for the possible local plastic bag fee recommended in the draft solid waste plan.

Beyond financial viability, success is also defined in the five-year plan partly as increased “diversion rates.” So this report also looks at that statistic and what it actually means. [Full Story]

A2: Marijuana

As activists seek decriminalization of marijuana in Michigan, Metro Times looks at the city of Ann Arbor, where voters in 1974 passed a revision to the city charter that decriminalized marijuana by making possession of less than 2 ounces a civil infraction. The article quotes state Rep. Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor, who has introduced a bill to decriminalize marijuana statewide: “The decriminalization that the community enacted decades ago, I think is a good example of how a local community can address these issues in a more reasonable and successful way. Marijuana is in communities all over Michigan and governments are completely impotent in addressing that.” [Source]

RTA Opt Out Legislation Introduced

A bill has been introduced to the Michigan state house of representatives that would allow Washtenaw County to opt out of the four-county regional transportation authority (RTA) – which was established by the lame duck legislature at the end of 2012. The proposed amendment to the RTA legislation, which applies to any county or municipality in the RTA region, would provide the possibility of an opt-out on a simple majority vote of the governing body within the first year after establishment of the authority. After more than a year, it would require a 2/3 majority vote. From the draft bill introduced on April 30, 2013 [HB 4637]:
Sec. 4A
(1) A county or a municipality may withdraw from an authority … [Full Story]

A2: Marijuana

State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-District 53) participated in a recent segment of the Fox 2 News talk show “Let It Rip,” focused on decriminalizing marijuana. Irwin, an Ann Arbor Democrat, has proposed legislation – House Bill 4623 – to significantly reduce the penalties for recreational use of the drug. [Source]

A2: Hash Bash

The Detroit Free Press reports on the annual Hash Bash, held Saturday on the University of Michigan Diag. The article quotes state Rep. Jeff Irwin, a Democrat from Ann Arbor: “… I believe we need to legalize marijuana. The amount of blood and treasure we’ve spilled in this drug war is an embarrassment to our country.” [Source]

Local Democrats Win State House Seats

Four districts in the Michigan House of Representatives cover parts of Washtenaw County, and all will be represented by Democrats following the Nov. 6 election. District 53, which covers most of Ann Arbor, is represented by Democrat Jeff Irwin – he won another two-year term by defeating Republican John Spizak. Irwin drew 32,569 votes (80.48%) over 7,670 votes (18.95%) for Spizak.

In District 52, incumbent Republican Mark Ouimet was defeated by Democrat Gretchen Driskell, who currently serves as mayor of Saline, by a vote of 26,646 (52.86%) for Driskell to 23,609 (46.83%) for Ouimet. The district covers western, northern and parts of southern Washtenaw County.

Winning re-election was Democrat incumbent David Rutledge of District 54, representing the eastern portion of Washtenaw County, including Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti … [Full Story]

Candidate Forum for 53rd District: Jeff Irwin

Incumbent Jeff Irwin was the only candidate for the Michigan House of Representatives 53rd District to appear at an Oct. 11 forum organized by the League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area. The Ann Arbor Democrat was first elected to that office in 2010.

Jeff Irwin

Democrat Jeff Irwin, incumbent for District 53 in the Michigan House of Representatives. (Photo by the writer.)

Republican candidate John Spizak, who will also be on the Nov. 6 ballot, did not participate. The 53rd District covers most of Ann Arbor, and the winner of the election will serve a two-year term.

At the forum, Irwin fielded questions on basic biographical background, voter registration laws, partisanship, the state retirement system, and women’s reproductive health. He stressed three areas of focus: education, environment, and equal rights. He’d continue to work on those areas, he said, even if Democrats remain in the minority in the house after the Nov. 6 election. He’s working to shift that balance, however, “so we can help Governor Snyder govern as the moderate he ran as.”

Irwin’s responses to three other questions are included on the league’s website.

The Oct. 11 candidate forum was held at the studios of Community Television Network in Ann Arbor, and is available online via CTN’s video-on-demand service. The forum included candidates for the 55th District – Republican Owen Diaz, Green David McMahon and Democrat Adam Zemke – whose responses are reported in a separate Chronicle write-up.

Information on local elections can be found on the Washtenaw County clerk’s elections division website. To see a sample ballot for your precinct, visit the Secretary of State’s website. The league’s website also includes a range of information on national, state and local candidates and ballot issues, and a “build my ballot” feature. [Full Story]

State Legislative Candidates Share Views

Three Democratic candidates for the Michigan House of Representatives fielded questions on Monday evening that covered a mix of topics – from education and public transit to term limits, failing infrastructure, environmental quality and retirement benefits for public employees.

Tom Partridge, Jeff Irwin, Adam Zemke

From left: Democrats Thomas Partridge, Jeff Irwin, and Adam Zemke. Partridge is challenging Irwin, the incumbent, in the Democratic primary for District 53 in the Michigan House of Representatives, covering most of Ann Arbor. Zemke is running against Andrea Brown-Harrison for the new District 55, which includes the northern portion of Ann Arbor and several other communities in Washtenaw County. Brown-Harrison did not attend the July 9 candidate forum. (Photos by the writer.)

In District 53, covering most of Ann Arbor, incumbent Jeff Irwin faces Thomas Partridge in the Aug. 7 primary. Irwin, a former Washtenaw County commissioner, was first elected to the House in 2010 and is seeking a second two-year term. Partridge, a frequent speaker during public commentary at various local government meetings, most recently ran an unsuccessful campaign for state Senate (District 18) in 2010. Both candidates are residents of Ann Arbor. In the Nov. 6 general election, the winner of the Democratic primary will compete against Republican John Spisak, who is unopposed in the Republican primary.

In the new District 55 – created during the state’s reapportionment process after the 2010 Census – Democrats Adam Zemke of Ann Arbor and Andrea Brown-Harrison of Ypsilanti are competing in the Aug. 7 primary. The winner will face Republican Owen Diaz, the former mayor of Milan, in November. Diaz is unopposed in the Republican primary. The district covers parts of northern Ann Arbor, the townships of Ann Arbor, Augusta, Pittsfield and York, and a northern part of the city of Milan.

Brown-Harrison did not attend the July 9 candidate forum, which was moderated by the League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area. League member Judy Mich reported that Brown-Harrison did not respond to repeated requests made by phone, email and regular mail to attend the forum. Zemke answered the same set of questions that were posed to Irwin and Partridge.

The forum was held at the studios of Community Television Network, and will be available online via CTN’s video-on-demand service. The format included opening statements, seven questions, and closing statements. Though the format did not promote interaction between candidates, each candidate was given an optional one-minute rebuttal to use once during the forum.

League moderators noted that July 9 was the last day to register for the Tuesday, Aug. 7 primary. The last day to register to vote for the Tuesday, Nov. 6 general election is Oct. 9. Information on voter registration can be found on the Washtenaw County clerk’s elections division website. To see a sample ballot for your precinct, visit the Secretary of State’s website. [Full Story]

Lansing View: Concrete Talk With Jeff Irwin

Editor’s note: After 11 years of service on the Washtenaw County board of commissioners, Democrat Jeff Irwin was elected by voters of District 53 to serve as their representative in the Michigan House of Representatives. The district covers most of Ann Arbor, plus parts of Scio, Pittsfield and Ann Arbor townships.

Jeff Irwin

Jeff Irwin, representative for District 53 of the Michigan state House of Representatives, met with constituents at Espresso Royale in downtown Ann Arbor last Saturday. (Photos by the writer.)

In each of the first two months of his term, Irwin has held meetings for constituents in local Ann Arbor coffee houses – Cafe Verde and Espresso Royale. On Saturday, Feb. 26, The Chronicle caught up with Irwin after his talk with constituents and spoke with him for about an hour. The conversation included a discussion of Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed budget overview. [.pdf of budget overview]

In presenting the interview below, The Chronicle’s conversation with Irwin has been reorganized and edited in some places to achieve greater coherence and focus.

Last Saturday, Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-53rd District) entertained questions and concerns from constituents on a variety of topics, including local interest in the future use of the top of the underground parking structure, which is under construction on the city-owned Library Lot between Fifth and Division streets.

Three blocks east from Irwin’s conversation with constituents, a constant parade of concrete mixers on Division Street headed south across Liberty to the east edge of the Library Lot construction site. They dumped their loads into a pump, and through the course of the day, workers poured around 6,300 cubic yards of concrete. Coincidentally, in his subsequent conversation with The Chronicle, Irwin introduced images involving concrete and construction – he was drawing an analogy between teacher contracts and construction contracts.

We’ve chronicled this conversation in a Q&A format, divided into seven sections: (1) a budget bright spot in Medicaid; (2) education as an area of concern; (3) a lack of sufficient, specific goals associated with the budget; (4) labor relations in general; (5) labor relations in Washtenaw County; (6) Irwin’s relationship with former fellow county commissioner Mark Ouimet, a Republican who’s also now a state rep; and (7) a partisan imbalance in committee appointments. [Full Story]