Stories indexed with the term ‘nominations’

Council Focus Again on DDA Board: McWilliams

The appointment of Al McWilliams to the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board was again the focus of the Ann Arbor city council at its Oct. 7, 2013 meeting. McWilliams had been confirmed to the DDA board on a 6-5 vote taken at the council’s Sept. 16, 2013 meeting.

In one Oct. 7 action, the council voted to direct the city attorney to draft an opinion on the Sept. 16 confirmation vote and to file it with the city clerk’s office. In another action, taken after midnight, the council voted to reopen the agenda to add a motion to reconsider the Al McWilliams confirmation, which was then immediately postponed by a unanimous vote – until the council’s Oct. 21 meeting.

The … [Full Story]

Column: How to Count to 8, Stopping at 6

The Ann Arbor city council’s vote last Monday on the appointment of Al McWilliams to the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority was 6-5 on the 11-member body. A 6-5 vote for the Ann Arbor council is rare, and reflects a certain amount of controversy surrounding McWilliams’ appointment.

6 is not actually greater than or equal to 8

Fact: 6 is not actually greater than or equal to 8.

But in this column I’d like to leave aside the controversies that led to such a narrow split. Instead, I’d like to review the history of the legislative actions that led up to the 6-5 vote at the council’s Sept. 16, 2013 meeting. That review leads me to conclude that eight votes should have been required for approval.

A quick narrative summary goes like this: McWilliams was set to be nominated, then not actually nominated, but then nominated after all, then had his nomination “withdrawn,” and then finally had his nomination voted on by the council. But in the end, the six-vote majority was declared enough to confirm his membership on the DDA board, replacing Newcombe Clark, who made an employment-related move to Chicago after serving one four-year term.

Choice of the phrase “was declared enough to confirm” is not accidental. Even though the tally of six votes was deemed sufficient by the city clerk and mayor John Hieftje for approval of the motion, I think the vote actually required eight votes to pass.

Under the council’s rules, a nomination to a board or commission can’t be confirmed or approved before the next regular meeting of the council – unless eight members of the council vote for the confirmation. So the typical pattern is that a nomination is put forward at one meeting and the vote on confirmation is taken at the next regular meeting.

Hieftje explicitly stated at the council’s Sept. 3 meeting – during deliberations – that he was withdrawing the nomination of McWilliams. The matter was not “postponed” – as Hieftje described it at the Sept. 16 meeting – because the council did not vote on the McWilliams nomination at all, much less vote in a way that postponed consideration. It certainly would have been an option for the council to have entertained a motion to postpone. But councilmembers did not wind up voting on it at all, and Hieftje stated: “Okay, so I will withdraw it [McWilliams' nomination] tonight.”

Under any rational understanding of the nomination and confirmation procedure, Hieftje needed to take some affirmative action to put the nomination before the council again, which could have been done at the Sept. 16 meeting. Early in that meeting, during communications time, Hieftje indicated to the council he’d be bringing McWilliams’ nomination forward toward the end of the meeting, when nominations and confirmations are handled. The nomination was not on the council’s agenda as of 4 p.m. that day and came as a surprise to some councilmembers.

But instead of just placing the nomination of McWilliams before the council, Hieftje also asked the council on Sept. 16 to vote on confirmation, which it did – with the 6-5 outcome.

It’s puzzling that the online Legistar file for Sept. 16 containing the McWilliams nomination states that the nomination was “placed on the table for [the council's] consideration at the Sept. 3, 2013 Regular Session.” Reviewing my own notes, The Chronicle’s reporting and the CTN video, I can’t discern anything that happened at the Sept. 3 council meeting that could reasonably be described as placing McWilliams’ nomination on the table for consideration. Certainly councilmembers were asked to vote on Sept. 3 on a nomination that had been put before them on Aug. 19. But at the Sept. 3 meeting, the nomination was withdrawn by Hieftje for consideration by the council. And the Legistar record from Sept. 3 accurately reflects that: “Appointment taken off the table on 9/3/13.”

It’s certainly contemplated by the council’s rules that a nomination and confirmation vote can take place at the same meeting. So asking for the vote on Sept. 16 did not violate the council’s rules. It’s just that the 6-5 outcome on that vote should have been judged as not confirming the appointment of Al McWilliams to the DDA board – because it needed eight votes.

The problem here is not just a technical one. What’s the rationale for a higher voting threshold when a confirmation vote comes at the same meeting as the nomination? Granted, I think part of the rationale is to ensure enough time for an adequate review and vetting of a candidate – which arguably took place in the case of McWilliams’ nomination. But part of the rationale is not peculiar to appointments to boards and commissions. At least part of that general parliamentary principle is this: A higher standard is imposed when less notification has been given to the members of the council (and to the public).

When Hieftje withdrew McWilliams’ nomination at the Sept. 3 meeting, I think councilmembers and the public could have had a reasonable expectation that they’d be notified of an upcoming vote on his confirmation at least one meeting before a confirmation vote was taken. Absent that notification, the threshold for a successful vote should rise – to eight.

In this column, I’ll lay out some of the documentation in the online Legistar files that makes clear that the Sept. 16 nomination really was considered a new, fresh nomination that should have required either an eight-vote majority or a delay on voting until the following meeting.

I also have a suggestion for a remedy that does not involve Miley Cyrus. [Full Story]

Street-Closing Debate Extends Council Session

Ann Arbor city council meeting (Aug. 8, 2013): Counting all public hearings and public commentary, members of the public accounted for just 20 minutes of the council’s meeting. Still, councilmembers stretched a relatively light agenda to about four hours.

Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) share a light moment before the meeting started. They had both contested Democratic primaries two days earlier. Kunselman prevailed in a narrow race. Jack Eaton won the Ward 4 race.

Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) share a light moment before the Aug. 8 meeting started. They had both contested Democratic primaries two days earlier. Kunselman prevailed in a narrow race against Julie Grand. Jack Eaton won the Ward 4 race. (Photos by the writer.)

An hour of the meeting was taken up with a discussion of street closures around Michigan Stadium on football game days. The street closures are part of an effort to increase safety by creating a vehicle-free zone around the stadium. It involves a cooperative effort with the University of Michigan, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the city of Ann Arbor police department.

Those deliberations ultimately resulted in a modification of the original plan, so that the southbound lane of Main Street would not be closed until an hour before the start of the game.

Other parts of the plan were approved as originally proposed, starting three hours before kickoff: E. Keech Street between S. Main and Greene streets will be closed, and access to Greene Street from E. Hoover to E. Keech streets will be limited to parking permit holders; the westbound lane on E. Stadium Blvd. turning right onto S. Main Street (just south of the Michigan Stadium) will be closed; and S. Main Street except for the southbound lanes will be closed from Stadium Boulevard to Pauline.

The council also amended the plan to require a report by its Oct. 7 meeting on how well the procedures are working. Even with the modification to the plan and the requirement to brief the council on Oct. 7, the proposal to close streets on football Saturdays was approved on just a 7-4 vote, with dissent from Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Margie Teall (Ward 4) and Marcia Higgins (Ward 4). That neighborhood is located in Ward 4.

Also during the meeting, the council denied a requested street closure for a non-university event on South University Avenue. The requested closing was for “Beats, Eats, and Cleats,” sponsored by The Landmark apartment building. It was planned for the evening before a football game between the University of Michigan and the University of Notre Dame. Councilmembers expressed concerns about the probability of alcohol consumption.

Another 40 minutes of the meeting was taken up with discussion of a bike share program, which did have a direct connection to the University of Michigan. The council was asked to contribute $150,000 from the city’s alternative transportation fund. That money provided a 20% local match on a $600,000 Federal Highway Administration Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) grant that the Clean Energy Coalition (CEC) has received. The CMAQ funds have to be spent on capital, such as bikes and stations. Operations will be supported in the first three years of the program by UM at a level of $200,000 annually for a total of $600,000. The program will be operated by the CEC using B-Cycle as a vendor. The council’s vote on the bike share program was 9-2, with dissent from Sally Petersen (Ward 2) and Marcia Higgins (Ward 4).

Higgins also dissented on a council resolution that called upon the state legislature to repeal Michigan’s version of a “stand your ground” law, as well as to repeal legislation that prevents local municipalities from regulating the sale, transfer, transportation, or possession of firearms and ammunition. That resolution came after public commentary on the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case at the council’s previous meeting. Higgins agreed with the sentiments in the resolution, but said she thought it would have a greater impact if people spoke as individuals. Other councilmembers expressed some skepticism that the resolution would have much impact, but it received their support.

The Kerrytown Place project – an 18-unit townhouse development planned for the location of the former Orthodox Greek church on North Main Street – was subjected to only brief remarks. The council unanimously approved its requested rezoning and site plans.

In other business, the council approved a $10,000 design budget for a sidewalk on Waldenwood near King Elementary School. Construction of the sidewalk would allow a mid-block crosswalk to be moved to a four-way stop intersection.

The council also agreed to accept $202,370 from the Federal Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP) to help the city purchase development rights on land in Lodi Township, southwest of the city.

Over dissent from Jane Lumm (Ward 2) and Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), the council approved $18,500 to pay for public art administrator Aaron Seagraves’ contract through the end of 2013.

Among the nominations to boards and commissions announced at the meeting, two were significant: Rishi Narayan, founder and managing member of Underground Printing, to the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority; and Jack Bernard, chair of the University of Michigan’s council for disability concerns, to the board of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. [Full Story]

Noms: Narayan to DDA; Bernard to AAATA

Among the highlights of mayoral nominations to boards and commissions made at the Ann Arbor city council’s Aug. 8, 2013 meeting were two significant boards.

Rishi Narayan was nominated to replace Leah Gunn on the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. Narayan is founder and managing member of Underground Printing, which offers screenprinting of apparel in more than a dozen cities nationwide. Narayan made the Crain’s Detroit Business “Twenty in their 20s” list in 2010 as a 28-year-old.

Jack Bernard was nominated to the board of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. When the AAATA articles of incorporation were changed recently to add the city of Ypsilanti as a member, the board was expanded from seven … [Full Story]

Transportation Dominates Council Meeting

Ann Arbor city council meeting (Oct. 15, 2012): The council’s penultimate meeting before the ceremonial swearing in of new councilmembers on Nov. 19 was dominated by transportation topics.

Margie Teall peruses a map showing forecasted congestion on Ann Arbor roads under a "do nothing" scenario. Transportation program manager Eli Cooper had distributed the map to councilmembers.

Margie Teall (Ward 4) peruses a map showing forecasted congestion on Ann Arbor roads under a “do nothing” scenario. Transportation program manager Eli Cooper had distributed the map to councilmembers at their Oct. 15 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

A study that’s required as part of Ann Arbor’s approach to building a new train station will move forward with a $550,000 funding resolution approved by the council. The same resolution also includes a clause stating that construction of a new train station would be put to a popular referendum before proceeding.

The budget amendment, which passed with exactly the eight votes it needed on the 11-member council, allocated the $550,000 to provide new matching funds for a federal grant. The grant had been awarded through the Federal Railroad Administration’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) program. Dissenting on the vote were Jane Lumm (Ward 2) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5). Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) was absent. Recent feedback from the FRA indicated that the city of Ann Arbor could not use previously expended funds to count as the local match – which had been the city’s original understanding.

The council also approved $30,000 for the continued study of a transportation connector between the northeast and south sides of Ann Arbor. The corridor runs from US-23 and Plymouth southward along Plymouth to State Street and farther south to I-94.

The council actually voted twice on that issue at the same meeting. On the first vote, the resolution failed. But a few minutes later, Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) – who had initially voted against it – asked for reconsideration of the vote, and changed her vote to support it, as did Mike Anglin (Ward 5). The council had previously considered and rejected funding for the study at its Sept. 4, 2012 meeting. But councilmembers reconsidered that vote two weeks later on Sept. 17, 2012, which resulted in a postponement until Oct. 15. The second reconsideration by the council during the Oct. 15 meeting required a suspension of the council’s rules, which don’t permit a question to be reconsidered more than once.

Wrapping up the transportation themes of the evening was a public call for volunteers to serve on the new 15-member transit authority board, recently incorporated under Act 196 of 1986. While it had been previously assumed that the seven Ann Arbor appointments to the new authority’s board would serve simultaneously on Ann Arbor Transportation Authority’s board, legal questions about simultaneous service on the two boards led to mayor John Hieftje’s announcement to recruit other volunteers.

The first two of the seven Ann Arbor nominations needed for the new transit authority board were made at the Oct. 15 meeting: Susan Baskett, who currently serves as a trustee on the Ann Arbor Public Schools board; and Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), who currently serves on the city council. Derezinski will be leaving the council in mid-November, because he did not prevail in his August Democratic primary race. His last city council meeting will be Nov. 8.

Nov. 8 would also mark the last council meeting for Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) and Sandi Smith (Ward 1), who did not seek re-election. However, Smith announced on Oct. 15 that she would not be able to attend the Nov. 8 meeting, which meant that the Oct. 15 meeting was her last. She bid her colleagues farewell, and kind words were offered around the table.

It was a resolution from Smith that prompted the main non-transportation topic of the evening – an attempt to establish a formal policy to use the net proceeds of city-owned land sales to support affordable housing. The council approved a version of the policy, but it was far more restricted than Smith’s original proposal, which the council had considered but postponed on Sept. 17.

Smith’s initial proposal would have directed 85% of the net proceeds from the sale of any city-owned land in the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority district to be deposited in the city’s affordable housing trust fund. During the month-long postponement, the council’s budget committee discussed the proposal and made a recommendation that for only one city property – the Fifth & William lot, where the former YMCA building previously stood – the net proceeds from any future sale would be deposited into the city’s affordable housing trust fund. The budget committee also recommended that any other properties be considered on a case-by-case basis, considering all needs of the city. And that’s essentially the recommendation that the council adopted.

In other business, councilmembers authorized an extension to a third year for the city’s coordinated approach to funding for human services. And the council took the first step toward dissolving the sign board of appeals and transferring its responsibility to the zoning board of appeals. The council also accepted a total of $1 million in grants for city parks, and added about 125 acres to the city’s greenbelt program. And a $200,000 study was authorized to prevent flooding in the southwest part of the city.

A symbolic vote – calling for the U.S. Congress to send a constitutional amendment to the states to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission decision – resulted in passage, over dissent from Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) and Jane Lumm (Ward 2).  [Full Story]

DDA Nominations: Smith, Hewitt, Orr

Nominated for reappointment to the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority are Sandi Smith, Roger Hewitt and Keith Orr. Those nominations were placed before the city council by mayor John Hieftje at the council’s Aug. 9, 2012 meeting.

This year’s DDA board officer elections, held  two months ago at the July 2, 2012 annual meeting, again featured abstention on some votes by board member Newcombe Clark – because the future composition of the board was not yet clear. Hieftje’s custom for many re-appointments to city boards and commissions has been to provide no public indication of his intentions on those nominations.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. … [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]

Hutton Appointed to Enviro Commission

At its Feb. 22, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council appointed Susan Hutton to fill the vacancy on the city’s environmental commission (EC) left by Steve Bean – who chose not to continue his service on the EC. Bean had served on the EC since it was created in 2000.

Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5), who  serves as one of two council representatives to the commission – the other is Margie Teall (Ward 4) – had announced at the council’s previous meeting that he was nominating Hutton to fill Bean’s spot. Hutton is development director at Leslie Science and Nature Center. At that meeting, Hohnke had also announced that there would be another vacancy soon on the EC and that the council was actively soliciting applicants. [Anya Dale's term on the EC ended on Feb. 20, 2011.]

Whereas most nominations to boards and commissions are made by the mayor, then confirmed by the city council, positions on the EC are made by the city council.

This brief was filed from the boardroom in the Washtenaw County administration building, where the council is meeting due to renovations in the city hall building. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Streetlights Back On; Bonds for Deck OK’d

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Oct. 4, 2010): While the city council postponed two major pieces of business, it did take action on two others.

Jim Kosteva and Mike Anglin read the Record

Jim Kosteva (left), University of Michigan's director of community relations, and Mike Anglin (Ward 5) peruse the University Record before the meeting. This week's edition of the Record includes an article on the founding of the Peace Corps. On Monday, the council approved a street closing on Oct. 14 in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps founding. (Photos by the writer.)

First, the council voted to discontinue a pilot program to turn off selected streetlights. The program was designed to save $120,000 for the current fiscal year’s budget [FY 2011]. No additional streetlights will be turned off, and those that were switched off as part of the pilot program will be turned back on.

And the council voted to authorize the issuance of $9 million in general obligation bonds in connection with the parking deck to be built as part of Village Green’s City Apartments project at First and Washington. The bonds could take the form of conventional tax-exempt bonds, or other bonds, depending on which are legally available and most advantageous to the city when they’re issued. The bonds won’t be needed until the construction of Village Green’s project is completed.

In 2008 the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority passed a resolution authorizing that the bond payments be made from revenues generated by the city’s public parking system, which is managed by the DDA. The city council approved an extension to the purchase option agreement for the land at its Aug. 5 meeting.

Two expected votes did not take place. Revisions to the city’s zoning code that would change the specifications for area, height and placement in most zoning districts of the city outside the downtown were postponed at the request of Marcia Higgins (Ward 4), who said that she had questions she’d been unable to submit in time to get answers.

And in the absence of Sandi Smith (Ward 1) and Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) – who arrived late to the meeting – Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) asked for postponement of a five-year extension of the 2007 consent judgment the city reached with Joseph Freed and Associates LLC, developer of the Glen Ann Place project.

Glen Ann Place was a planned unit development (PUD) approved by the council in July 2005, but that did not win subsequent approval from the city’s historic district commission. Freed then filed suit against the city, the outcome of which was a consent judgment. Per the consent judgment, the height of the building was reduced from 10 to 9 stories. Glen Ann Place is planned to include retail and office uses on its first two floors, with residential on upper stories.

In other business, the council approved a handful of recommendations for liquor licenses, approved a rezoning for the land where the University of Michigan’s new soccer facility has been built, and approved an overhauling of the ordinance that governs how false alarms to fire and police are penalized.

The council also received a variety of updates from staff, including one on the traffic control plan for the East Stadium bridges when they are reconstructed next year, as well as a response from the city’s CFO to recent community discussion of significant unpaid taxes that might be owed to the city.

The city council also accepted a gift on behalf of the city from the Ann Arbor Summer Festival – a giant print of a photograph by Myra Klarman. [Full Story]