This truck was wrested from its parking place along the curb and pulled onto the tow truck, while all traffic on Ashley was forced to wait. Speculation from on-lookers was that more than one parking ticket might be involved. [photo]
Ann Arbor city council meeting (Nov. 19, 2012): The first meeting of the council’s new edition featured delaying action on two main agenda items – revisions to the Ann Arbor living wage ordinance, and two competing proposals about the city’s public art ordinance.
Legislative activity on the public art ordinance resulted from the Nov. 6 rejection by voters of an alternate means of funding public art – a 0.1 mill tax that would have generated roughly $450,000 annually. At the Nov. 19 meeting, Jane Lumm (Ward 2) proposed ending the existing public art program, which requires that 1% of the budget for all capital projects in the city be allocated for public art – with a limit of $250,000 per project. A competing proposal, from Sabra Briere (Ward 1), would narrow the type of capital project from which Percent for Art funds could be allocated. Briere’s proposal would have the practical effect of reducing – by about 90% – the amount of public art funds generated by the existing program. In the last two years the program has generated over $300,000 a year, and more in previous years.
The council wound up tabling both proposals, a parliamentary move that means there’s no particular time in the future when the council must consider them. The proposals will expire, if the council does not take them up off the table in six months. However, the council’s strategy will likely be to appoint a committee to study the matter and to suspend temporarily the existing program. A resolution to that effect was added to the council’s agenda during the meeting, after the tabling of the other proposals – but that third resolution was then postponed until the council’s Dec. 3 meeting.
Also postponed was a set of revisions to the city’s living wage ordinance. The main change would be to exempt those nonprofits from the ordinance that receive funding through the city’s human services allocation, which has totaled roughly $1.2 million each year for the last several years. The ordinance currently has a waiver provision, requiring a city-council-approved plan for compliance with the living wage ordinance within three years. Only one such waiver has been sought since the living wage ordinance was enacted in 2001. That came at the council’s meeting earlier this month, on Nov. 8, 2012.
Based on council deliberations at the Nov. 19 meeting, the living wage revisions in their current form seem likely to be approved only with great difficulty. Some councilmembers seemed more interested in pursuing exemptions for categories of workers – temporary or seasonal – instead of exempting categories of organizations. The living wage ordinance revisions were postponed until Feb. 19.
Getting initial approval were changes to two other city ordinances – on noise and the storage of cars on streets.
The changes to the noise ordinance were prompted by the impact that recent construction of the Landmark building at 601 S. Forest had on neighbors. If given final approval by the council, the changes would make clear that holidays are to be treated like Sundays and that supervisors can be cited under the ordinance, not just a worker who’s operating a piece of equipment.
The revision to the towing ordinance would make it easier to prevent people from storing inoperable vehicles on city streets. Like all changes to city ordinances, it will need a second vote by the council, after a public hearing.
In other business, the council authorized a $15,000 budget for analyzing alternatives for installing a sidewalk along a section of Scio Church Road. Residents in the area have petitioned the city for a sidewalk.
And Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) used his communications time toward the end of the meeting as an occasion to deliver harsh criticism of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority and mayor John Hieftje.
In the first meeting for newly elected councilmembers, the council also chose Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) to serve as mayor pro tem, as she has for the last three years. The order of succession to the mayor, based on seniority lines, was also set.
Inoperable cars will be a bit more difficult to store on the streets of Ann Arbor, if the city council eventually gives a final OK to changes it initially approved at its Nov. 19, 2012 meeting.
The city’s current strategy – of placing notices on cars that give owners 48 hours to move their vehicles – appears to be thwarted by people who simply push their vehicles a few feet. The proposed change in the ordinance would address directly the issue of whether a vehicle is operable, in part by adding the following language: “If a vehicle appears to be inoperative based on outward appearance or otherwise appears to not have been driven after a 48 hour notice has been affixed …
Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Feb. 1, 2012): A light agenda and three absent commissioners resulted in a brief 30-minute session at Wednesday’s county board meeting.
Items not on the agenda took up much of the meeting time. As he has in the past, commissioner Wes Prater raised concerns over a countywide transit plan being developed by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. It’s expected that the county board will eventually be asked to authorize a four-party agreement with the AATA and the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, but that agreement has not yet been formally presented to the board. [The Ann Arbor city council has postponed its ratification of the four-party agreement twice, and has been asked by the AATA to postpone the issue again at the council's Feb. 6 meeting. That postponement would be until March 5.]
Also at Wednesday’s meeting, county administrator Verna McDaniel introduced local attorney Stefani Carter, who’ll be filling in while corporation counsel Curtis Hedger is on medical leave. Carter has been doing contract work for the county, and previously spent 15 years with the Ann Arbor city attorney’s office.
Speaking at the time for public commentary, Billy Salamey – owner of three towing companies in the county – defended accusations that have been levied against his business during a recent bidding process for towing services with the sheriff’s office. Salamey’s commentary in turn prompted board chair Conan Smith to defend the county’s bidding process, which Smith described as transparent and fair.
Among the formal actions taken during Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners authorized a five-year, $460,000 extension to a project aimed at improving conditions at Whitmore Lake. They also gave final approval to a two-year collective bargaining agreement with AFSCME Local 3052, representing 52 general supervisors.
The first football Saturday morning of the season got off to a pretty awful start for one Texan, whose blue Honda Civic was tagged with a neat sign reading “This Car Has Been Impounded” tucked under the wiper blades.