Stories indexed with the term ‘mayoral appointments’

Council Takes Time for Re-Set: Rules, DDA

Ann Arbor city council meeting (Sept. 3, 2013): Two significant items on the council’s agenda were postponed so that more committee work could be done on the issues: revisions to the ordinance (Chapter 7) regulating tax increment finance (TIF) capture by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority; and revisions to the council’s internal rules.

Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and Sally Petersen (Ward 2)

Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and Sally Petersen (Ward 2). Despite Ann Arbor’s reputation, on this occasion councilmembers appeared to be leaning to the right. The meeting featured public commentary that recalled a standard political joke about Ann Arbor during football season: “Fake left, run right.” (Photos by the writer.)

Both issues also had been postponed from previous meetings. However, the committees that were supposed to have provided more specific recommendations to the full council prior to Sept. 3 did not accomplish that work.

After the Sept. 3 council meeting, both of the relevant committees subsequently met. An update on their work is included in this council meeting report.

The DDA ordinance revisions have already been given initial approval by the council and are awaiting a final vote. The amendments to Chapter 7 include various changes to governance, including term limits for board members, as well as clarifications to the existing language on TIF capture. The amendments would enforce the existing language of the ordinance in a way that has an impact on the DDA’s TIF revenue that would roughly match the DDA’s projected revenues in its 10-year planning document.

However, since that 10-year document was last updated, the amount of new construction in the DDA district has resulted in significant increases in the taxable value on which TIF is computed. About $1 million a year is at stake – which would be distributed to the other jurisdictions whose taxes the DDA captures, instead of being collected by the DDA. The joint committee of DDA board members and city council members met on Sept. 10, and the group appeared to be ready to recommend that the council table the initially-approved ordinance changes and start from scratch, likely shedding the proposed changes to governance.

The approach the committee is now taking would remove the current Chapter 7 language expressing restrictions on the DDA’s TIF revenue, and replace it with a “cap” that would have a built-in annual increase. Among the scenarios the committee is weighing would be a cap set at a high-enough level that it would likely have no impact on the amount of the DDA’s TIF revenue, compared to the amount the DDA is receiving under its own current interpretation of the ordinance, which is disputed.

While the Sept. 3 postponement of the DDA-related ordinance was dispatched quickly, later in the meeting the council engaged in a substantial debate on an appointment to the DDA board – that of Al McWilliams. With only nine councilmembers present and his confirmation dubious – because it needed six votes on the 11-member council – mayor John Hieftje withdrew the nomination.

The council’s rules committee also met on Sept. 10 and reviewed revisions that had previously been recommended. Basing its work on a debate that the entire council had on July 15, 2013, the committee decided that none of the council rules on the length of speaking turns (for the public or for councilmembers) or for reserving time to speak at the start of meetings would be changed from the current rules. Among the proposed changes that survived committee discussion included: (1) adding public commentary at work sessions, (2) re-ordering the agenda to place nominations and appointments near the start of the meeting, and (3) prohibiting use of personal electronic communications devices while at the council table.

The council will take up the DDA ordinance as well as the internal rules issue at its next meeting on Sept. 16.

Other business handled by the council on Sept. 3 included passage of a resolution calling for work on better cleanup standards for 1,4-dioxane – which came only after lengthy debate about possibly postponing it in order to strengthen the language and seek the advice of additional stakeholders.

The council also passed a resolution recommended by the city’s energy commission, to direct city staff to develop a pilot program with DTE for a “community solar” project. Another resolution recommended by the energy commission failed to win council approval, however. It would have directed the city’s employment retirement system to divest from fossil fuel companies.

In land-related business, the council approved the city’s participation in two deals related to the city’s greenbelt program. Councilmembers also gave approval to a Hampton Inn project on Jackson Road and initial approval to a drive-thru to be constructed at a Shell/Tim Hortons at Eisenhower and Ann Arbor-Saline Road.

As part of city administrator Steve Powers’ report to the council, he mentioned that a memo on the review of the city’s crosswalk ordinance would be forthcoming. That memo was subsequently released. [Full Story]

No Council Vote on DDA, AAHC Apointments

At its Sept. 3, 2013 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council was asked to confirm just three of the four nominations made at the council’s previous meeting on Aug. 19.

Leigh Greden’s nomination to the Ann Arbor housing commission had been withdrawn before the meeting. And one of the remaining three nominations was withdrawn during deliberations. Mayor John Hieftje withdrew Al McWilliams’ appointment to the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority during the meeting. But the dynamic of the meeting, which included the absence of two councilmembers, suggested that McWilliams’ appointment might be brought forward for a vote at a future session.

The two other nominations from Aug. 19 were confirmed: Devon Akmon’s appointment to fill a vacancy on the public art commission; and Logan … [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]

Resolution Fails Opposing Mayoral Picks

At its Dec. 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council voted 4-7 on a resolution opposing mayoral appointments of city of Ann Arbor employees to serve on boards and commissions, which meant that it failed. Councilmembers voting for the resolution were its sponsors: Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Mike Anglin (Ward 5), Jane Lumm (Ward 2)  and Sabra Briere (Ward 1) .

The “resolved” clause read: “Therefore be it resolved, That Council opposes Mayoral nominations of City of Ann Arbor employees to office appointments.”

Reasons cited in the “whereas” clauses include the possible appearance of conflicting interests and commitments, as well as a clause in the city charter that might be construed as limiting the rights of city employees who are appointed to boards or commissions: “The personnel of the City, other than the elective and appointive officers, shall be deemed City employees.”

The resolution came in the context of mayor John Hieftje’s nomination at the council’s previous meeting (on Dec. 5, 2011) of a city employee to serve on a board. Hieftje nominated the city’s transportation program manager, Eli Cooper, to serve on the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority.

The council’s vote on Dec. 19 to confirm Cooper filled the vacancy on the AATA board left by another city employee, Sue McCormick. McCormick was, until Dec. 16, the city’s public services area administrator. She left to take a job as head of the Detroit water and sewerage department.

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]

Cooper Confirmed for AATA Board

At its Dec. 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council confirmed the nomination of the city’s transportation program manager, Eli Cooper, to serve on the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. The council vote on Cooper’s nomination was only 8-2, with Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), and Jane Lumm (Ward 2) dissenting. They objected to the appointment of a city employee to the position, not because they felt that Cooper himself was unsuitable. Cooper is filling the vacancy on the AATA board left by Sue McCormick.

McCormick is leaving her post at the city of Ann Arbor as public services area administrator to take a job as head of the Detroit water and sewerage department. McCormick’s last day on the job was Dec. 16. City administrator Steve Powers announced at the Dec. 5 meeting that the city’s head of systems planning, Craig Hupy, will fill in for McCormick on an interim basis. Powers reported that Hupy had no interest in the permanent position.

McCormick’s last AATA board meeting was Dec. 15. On that occasion, she was presented the AATA’s traditional token of appreciation for board service: a mailbox marked up to resemble an AATA bus.

Cooper’s city position as transportation program manager falls under the city’s systems planning unit. The council previously appointed Cooper to serve on the AATA board on June 20, 2005. He served through June 2008, and was replaced on the board by current board chair Jesse Bernstein.

When Cooper previously served on the AATA board, along with McCormick, their service prompted an op-ed in The Ann Arbor News criticizing the appointment of city employees to citizen boards. [.pdf of "Let's Stick With Autonomous Appointees for Citizen Boards"]

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]

Kotarski Nominated for Art Commission

At the Ann Arbor city council’s Dec. 19, 2011 meeting, mayor John Hieftje nominated John Kotarski to replace Margaret Parker on the Ann Arbor public art commission (AAPAC). Kotarski has been a media consultant who previously worked for the Mount Clemens Schools.

Parker served for several years on the commission on art in public places (CAPP), the precursor to AAPAC. She was last re-appointed to AAPAC on June 15, 2009 for a three-year term, which would have ended Dec. 31, 2012. Parker served as chair of AAPAC from the enactment of the city’s Percent for Art ordinance in 2007 until the end of 2010. Marsha Chamberlin agreed to assume responsibility as chair in April this year.

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]

Council Agenda Item: Mayoral Nominations

The Ann Arbor city council’s Dec. 19, 2011 meeting agenda, published online on Dec. 14, includes a resolution that expresses opposition to mayoral nominations of city of Ann Arbor employees to serve on boards and commissions. The resolution is sponsored by Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Jane Lumm (Ward 2).

The “resolved” clause, as it currently appears on the agenda, simply records the view that those voting in the affirmative are opposed to such appointments: “RESOLVED, Those council members voting in the affirmative to this resolution oppose Mayoral nominations of City of Ann Arbor employees to office appointments.”

Update: As of Friday, Dec. 16, the resolved clause has been revised to read: “Therefore be it resolved, That Council … [Full Story]