Stories indexed with the term ‘public commentary rules’

Sidewalk Issue Paused, Video Law Stopped

Ann Arbor city council meeting (July 1, 2013): In a meeting that featured land use and planning as a main theme, the council chose to put off final decisions on two significant issues.

A cross-lot path that leads from Roon the Ben in the Turnberry neighborhood to the ballfields for Scarlett-Mitchell schools. A pending ordinance change could eventually place responsibility for capital repairs on the city, but give homeowners the responsibility of shoveling snow.

A cross-lot path that leads from Roon the Ben in the Turnberry neighborhood to the ballfields for Scarlett-Mitchell schools. A pending ordinance change could eventually place responsibility for capital repairs on the city, but give adjacent property owners the responsibility of shoveling snow. (Photos by the writer.)

First, councilmembers postponed a decision on a change to the definition of “sidewalk” in the city code – which would have implications for the adjacent property owners of “cross-lot paths.” While the definitional change would allow the city to take responsibility for capital repairs on such cross-lot paths – using sidewalk repair millage funds – it would place the burden of winter snow shoveling on adjacent property owners.

That division of responsibility for repair and maintenance is one that’s now familiar to owners of property adjacent to sidewalks that run next to a road or a street. Given the number of open questions about how logistics would actually work, and concerns expressed during the public hearing on July 1 as well as at a previous public meeting on the topic, the council decided to postpone a final vote until Oct. 7, 2013.

Second, the council postponed a vote on adding the South State Street corridor plan to the city’s master plan, which consists of several separate documents. The city planning commission has already voted to adopt the corridor plan as part of the master plan. It’s one of the few issues on which the planning commission does not act just as an advisory body that makes recommendations to the council. For the master plan, the council and the planning commission must adopt the same plan. The postponement came in deference to a request from Marcia Higgins (Ward 4). The area of the study lies in Ward 4, which she represents.

Despite the postponement, the South State Street corridor plan still had an impact on a decision made by the council – to deny a rezoning request for the parcel at 2271 S. State St. The change in zoning would have allowed the parcel to be used for car sales. That use isn’t consistent with the recommendations in the corridor plan, and the planning commission had recommended against rezoning on that basis. Even though it was just the initial vote on the rezoning – an occasion when councilmembers sometimes will advance an ordinance change to a second reading in order to allow a public hearing to take place – the rezoning request got no support on the council.

In contrast, the initial rezoning requested for the Kerrytown Place project – an 18-unit townhouse development at the location of the former Greek Orthodox church on North Main Street – received unanimous approval at the council’s July 1 meeting.

Also related to land use, the council reconstituted a 12-member citizens advisory committee to study the R4C zoning area. The re-establishment of the group, which was originally appointed in 2009, comes after the planning commission had voted at its April 16, 2013 meeting to send recommendations to the city council for revisions to the R4C zoning areas. The recommended revisions were not the actual ordinance language. That language would need to be written after councilmembers sign off on the general recommendations. No action is expected by the council until the committee has met two or three times.

Another committee reconstituted by the council on July 1 was a group to sort through some contentious issues between the council and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. The council has postponed until Sept. 3 a final decision on a change to Chapter 7 of the city code, which regulates the DDA’s tax increment finance (TIF) capture. The four councilmembers on the committee are: Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Sally Petersen (Ward 2) and Jane Lumm (Ward 2). Two days later, at its regular monthly meeting, the DDA’s complement was appointed: Roger Hewitt, Bob Guenzel, Joan Lowenstein and Sandi Smith.

A proposed video privacy ordinance that was on the council’s July 1 agenda did not win sufficient support to advance to a second reading. The proposal would have regulated the way that public surveillance cameras could be used by local law enforcement officials. Although the vote was 5-4 in favor, that fell short of the six-vote majority it needed on the 11-member body. So the council voted down the video privacy ordinance on its initial consideration – having postponed the issue several times previously.

The council also decided to delay adoption of amendments to its own internal rules – out of deference to two councilmembers who were absent from the meeting: Sally Petersen (Ward 2) and Margie Teall (Ward 4). Highlights of the rule changes include the addition of a public commentary opportunity at council work sessions, and reduction in the time per turn for the public from three to two minutes. A change in councilmember speaking times equates to a reduction from eight minutes to five minutes total per item for each councilmember.

The council handled a number of other items during the meeting, including the adoption of the 2009 International Fire Code, a location change for the Ward 2 Precinct 8 polling place, approval of a special assessment to help pay for sidewalk and curb improvements along Miller Avenue, and confirmation of appointments to boards and commissions. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Council Delays on Rule Changes

The Ann Arbor city council has delayed action on possible changes to its speaking rules, essentially choosing to follow its own existing meta-rule on rules changes – which requires that the council be notified about possible rules changes at one meeting, before taking action at a subsequent meeting. The council is considering changes that would add a period of public commentary to its work sessions, but reduce public speaking time per turn from three minutes to two minutes. [.pdf of draft rules changes] The action that the council took at its June 17, 2013 meeting was to postpone the item until its July 1 meeting.

The procedure for reserving one of the 10 reserved speaking slots at the start of … [Full Story]

County Board Trims Public Commentary

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Jan. 4, 2012): The county board’s first meeting of the year was a combination of stasis and change.

Yousef Rabhi

County commissioner Yousef Rabhi, who was re-elected chair of the working session and successfully lobbied to keep public commentary time unchanged at those sessions. (Photos by the writer.)

Unchanged were the board officers – as is its custom, the board re-elected the same leaders from the previous year. Conan Smith retained his position as board chair, but did not use the meeting to continue the discussion he’d started in December regarding strategic planning for the county. Smith has proposed focusing county efforts on shoring up the county’s east side, an area that he has said is facing a “perfect storm of despair,” including high unemployment, low graduation rates and poor health.

Rather, the main action of the Jan. 4 meeting focused on significant changes regarding public commentary, as part of revisions to the board’s rules and regulations. The majority of commissioners voted to shorten the time available per speaking turn – from five to three minutes – and to eliminate one of two agenda slots for public commentary at its bi-monthly meetings. Commissioners Rolland Sizemore Jr., Ronnie Peterson and Felicia Brabec voted against the changes, but were in the minority.

Yousef Rabhi, who was re-elected chair of the working session, proposed an amendment to keep both public commentary slots in place at the working sessions. His amendment – which was supported unanimously by the board – also kept the five minutes alloted per speaker for public commentary at the working sessions.

An amendment to the rules proposed by Dan Smith was tabled. The change would give commissioners the option of abstaining from a vote. Wes Prater questioned the amendment, arguing that state law requires commissioners to vote on resolutions unless there’s a conflict of interest. It was eventually tabled until the second meeting in February, allowing the county attorney to research the legality of the proposed rule. In a follow-up query from The Chronicle, Smith indicated that he doesn’t intend to pursue the amendment.

Dan Smith was successful in another effort, however – an amendment he proposed to the board’s 2012 calendar. Commissioners voted to change the start time of working sessions to 6 p.m. and add the administrative briefing as the first agenda item. Previously, administrative briefings – held to review the board’s upcoming agenda – were held at 4 p.m. the week prior to a regular board meeting. It had been a difficult time of day for some commissioners, including Smith, to attend.

An issue not addressed at the Jan. 4 meeting was the status of the county’s negotiations with the Humane Society of Huron Valley. After the meeting, deputy county administrator Kelly Belknap told The Chronicle that the county had signed a one-month extension – at $29,000 – for HSHV to continue providing mandated animal control services for the county through January. The county’s previous contract with HSHV expired Dec. 31, and Belknap said negotiations continue to try to reach a longer-term agreement. Belknap said she was optimistic the two sides could reach a resolution, even if it required another temporary extension. Reached by email later in the week, HSHV executive director Tanya Hilgendorf indicated that she shared that optimism.

The Jan. 4 meeting was initially officiated by the Washtenaw County clerk, Larry Kestenbaum, who presided until the election of the board chair. Kestenbaum took the opportunity to give some tips on campaign finance reporting to commissioners and other potential candidates in the upcoming 2012 election.  [Full Story]

County Board Reduces Public Comment Time

At its Jan. 4, 2012 meeting, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners modified its rules related to public commentary, shortening the time available per speaking turn and eliminating one of two agenda slots for public commentary. [.pdf of revised board rules & regulations]

The board’s rules and regulations, adopted at the beginning of each year, were modified in three ways. Most significantly, the second of two opportunities for public commentary was eliminated at both the board meeting and the ways & means committee meeting. The times slated for commissioner response to public commentary at the end of those two meetings was also eliminated. Previously, public commentary and commissioner response were provided near the start and end of each board meeting … [Full Story]

Board Sets Process to Replace Guenzel

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners meeting (Jan. 6, 2010): Wednesday’s meeting of the board was spent mostly on procedural and governance issues, but the undercurrent of ongoing budget concerns was never far from the discussion.

Larry Kestenbaum, Washtenaw County clerk, listens to a public commentary speaker at Wednesday's meeting of the Washtenaw County board of commissioners. Kestenbaum presided over the meeting until the board elected its officers. Rolland Sizemore Jr. was re-elected unanimously to his second term as chairman of the board.

Larry Kestenbaum, Washtenaw County clerk, listens to a public commentary speaker at Wednesday's meeting of the Washtenaw County board of commissioners. Kestenbaum presided over the meeting until the board elected its chair for the new year. Rolland Sizemore Jr. was re-elected unanimously to his second term as chair of the board.

The board loosened its rules regarding public commentary, discussed – but ultimately rejected – an attempt to change the flex account method for managing its own portion of the budget, and got an update on the search for a replacement for retiring county administrator Bob Guenzel.

A job posting will be made for that position on Monday, Jan. 11, with the possibility of making a new hire as early as Feb. 3.

The board also heard from an advocate for the homeless during public commentary, who urged the board to take more of a leadership role in addressing that issue. [Full Story]

Sizemore Elected to Lead County Commission

Rolland Sizemore, right, newly elected chair of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, confers with Curt Hedger, the countys corporate counsel, at Wednesday nights board meeting.

Rolland Sizemore, right, newly elected chair of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, confers with Curt Hedger, the county's corporate counsel, at Wednesday night's board meeting.

County Board of Commissioners (Jan. 7, 2009) In an uncharacteristically short session, members of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners were sworn in. They then elected new leaders, adjusted their rules to cut the amount of time given to public comment – and adjourned in less than an hour.

Rolland Sizemore Jr., whose district primarily covers Ypsilanti Township, was elected to chair the commission, replacing Jeff Irwin, who represents District 11 in Ann Arbor. Both are Democrats. Any drama that occurred over the change in leadership happened behind the scenes – no dissenting votes were cast in the election of any officers on Wednesday night. [Full Story]

AATA Board to Mull Fare Increases

AATA Board (Dec. 17, 2008) Although the Ann Arbor Transportation Area board last month transitioned to a meeting format in which “there will not be discussion surrounding committee reports,” board member Ted Annis still gave the public what he calls the “headline news” from the planning and development committee, which he chairs. That included study of possible base fare increases over the next two years, first from $1 to $1.25 and then from $1.25 to $1.50. The possibility of completely eliminating fares for people with disabilities and for those over 65 years old is also being considered. Any changes will be preceded by public hearings with a board decision expected in April 2009.

In other board business, a bylaws change was passed to allow for public comment at the beginning of board meetings on any of the board’s agenda items. Board chair David Nacht described it as “an opportunity to make a pitch in advance of our actions,” and said that he thought it was “a really good idea.” A time limit of two minutes per individual will apply to the commentary at the beginning of the meetings. A time for public comment on any topic will still be available at the end of meetings. [Full Story]