<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> First November newsletter 2013 sec

The only way for kids to walk to Wines elementary school along Newport Road.  Looks safe to you?

Sabra Briere

First Ward, City Council
995-3518 (home)
277-6578 (cell)

Coffee wakes some of us up

I usually hold office hours 7:30 to 9 am on Mondays at the Northside Grill. 

The folks at the Northside put up with political talk early in the morning.  If you see me there, please wave, and if you have time, please, join me for coffee and a chat. 


The City Council holds a caucus meeting each Sunday prior to a Council meeting.  This meeting is an opportunity for members of Council to discuss agenda items -- and pending issues -- with each other in public view.  Members of the public are welcome to attend to bring issues to the attention of Council members.  Caucus is held in Council Chambers and starts at 7 pm.
I go to almost all Caucus meetings.


Dear Neighbors,

The Hallowe’en pumpkins are now lying face down in the garden.  Over the next month, animals large and small will eat them; then they go to compost.  Since November 1 is the first day of winter in mediaeval reckoning, I consider this part of putting the garden to bed while sharing the harvest.  (May 1 is the first day of summer.  But you could go do your own calculations to figure out why June 21 and December 21 are mid-summer and mid-winter, respectively.)

For all the rain and wind, the golden leaves out my window are still clinging tightly to the trees.  It looks as if it will be a late fall.  Which is good for me, but not so good for my allergies.


It’s been a busy couple of weeks.

The City will hold a public meeting about Argo Park and parking issues.  Please come to the Traverwood branch library at 7 pm to hear more and offer your insight.

I attended several meetings about 1,4 dioxane and state regulations.  Because the City Council passed my resolution urging the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to implement changes in their regulatory scale – reducing the amount of 1,4 dioxane allowed in ground water – the MDEQ administrator agreed to a meeting to discuss the cleanup.  He asserted that there was simply no time to make such a change this year, but that he and the staff would work with Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County to implement a change for next year.  There’s a meeting in Lansing on this issue on November 13th.  I plan to attend, in order to reinforce Ann Arbor’s interests in a positive outcome.  I’ve sent rough notes on this – and a meeting with Representatives Driskoll, Irwin and Zemke – to members of Council.  I can share those notes with you – but please understand that these are my notes of the discussions, and not city or county policy.

A developer has proposed an 8-unit residential development for a site on W. Liberty near the corner of Liberty and First.  There will be a public participation meeting on this project on Wednesday, November 6th at 6:30 pm – in the downtown Library.

The Planning Commission will continue its public hearing on a proposed residential development on Traverwood.  Discussion on this development was postponed while the property owners (First Martin) worked with City staff to donate a section of the property to the City for use as a public park.  The public hearing on proposed changes to D1 zoning on will also be on the Planning Commission’s agenda for Wednesday, November 6th.  This meeting begins at 7 pm in City Council chambers.  Unlike City Council, the Planning Commission hold a public hearings before each agenda item rather than at the beginning of the meeting.

The election

Tuesday, November 5th, if you live in Ann Arbor you will have an opportunity to vote for a candidate for City Council.  I hope you will take advantage of this opportunity.

Polls open at 7 am, and remain open until 8 pm.

If you live in the Ann Arbor Public Schools district, you also have an opportunity to vote on whether to renew the Schools Sinking Fund.

And if you vote in the First Ward, thank you.

On the Agenda

The Council does not meet on the night before an election.  This November, the election is on Tuesday the 5th and the Council meets on Thursday the 7th.

Public Hearings

The Council holds public hearings for several different types of actions.  New and amended ordinances addressing any issue require a public hearing; site plan resolutions also require a public hearing.

The Council will hold a public hearing and then consider adopting the 2013 update to the Non-motorized Transportation Plan.  This plan mentions, but does not focus on, pedestrian safety.

The Council will also hold a public hearing on a site plan for an addition to the Ann Arbor Christian Reformed Church; this church property is located on Broadway.


New and amended ordinances require two readings.  A public hearing is held at the time of the second reading.  Public hearings may be held over if the ordinance is postponed at second reading.

Ordinances, second reading

The amendment to the ordinance that governs the DDA is on the agenda twice over.  The language that was preliminarily approved in the spring may be superseded by new language in a substitute ordinance.  A public hearing on the original language was held in April; if the Council withdraws that draft and approves the substitute, a new public hearing will be held.

Ordinances, first reading

The Park Advisory Commission has recommended that the Council approve a waiver in the Parks rental fees for any event that his primarily a charitable distribution of good for basic human needs.


Resolutions establish policies and expectations.  Resolutions can be added to the Agenda by Council members at any time, but are supposed to be added by 5 pm on the Friday before a Council meeting, if at all possible.  City staff offer resolutions for budget items, grant applications and such things as utility easements.  Resolutions also derive from Board and Commission actions.

Resolutions from Council

Council members are offering several resolutions.

The University of Michigan has installed an electronic sign outside Michigan Stadium that violates Ann Arbor sign ordinance language.  Although the University does not think it needs to follow local ordinances, City Council members may disagree.  The resolution urges the University to make changes in how and when the sign operates.  Council members Teall and Taylor are sponsoring this resolution.

The Park Advisory Commission recently completed a report about parks in the downtown.  The Council will decide whether to accept – and potentially implement – the recommendations in the report.  Council member Taylor has brought this resolution forward.

Every few years, a member of Council proposes a stronger policy on ethics for City Council.  Such a resolution is on the Agenda for Thursday.  Council member Kunselman proposed an ethics policy several years ago; Council member Taylor attempted to draft such a policy for the Rules Committee in 2009.  Council member Petersen is trying again.

The current focus on whether crosswalks are well designed and visible is an aspect of pedestrian safety, but it’s not all there is to talk about.  Council member Warpehoski and I are sponsoring a resolution that would establish a task force to consider a variety of aspects of pedestrian safety and access.  Some of the materials we read before suggesting this task force include the Federal Highway Administration’s Pedestrian Study Guidebook and a variety of documents about the State of Michigan’s Complete Streets program.

The most interesting resolution from Council, however, might be one sponsored by Mayor Hieftje and Council member Kunselman.  This resolution authorizes the City Administrator to negotiate the sale of the Old Y lot (350 S. Fifth).  The resolution recommends that the opportunity to purchase this property be offered first to Dennis Dahlmann’s Dahlmann Properties.  If that negotiation doesn’t prove fruitful, the resolution authorizes the City Administrator to offer the opportunity to CA Ventures, from Chicago.  The City Council already asserted that any funds that remain from the sale of this property – after the debts on it are paid – will go toward affordable housing.

I would be pleased to hear your insight on whether to sell the property, and to which company.  (995-3518 or sabra.briere@gmail.com / sbriere@a2gov.org)

Resolutions from Boards and Commissions

No additional resolutions (other than those listed above for public hearings) are on the agenda.

Resolutions from Staff

The Council will consider whether to appropriate $35,000 for the design of a sidewalk on Scio Church Road.   This is a preliminary step toward building the sidewalk – which would cost considerably more.

The Council will also discuss whether to authorize the staff to develop a design for street improvements and new sidewalks on Stone School Road that would be in compliance with the Non-motorized Plan and Complete Streets program.

The Courts have been offered funding through several grants for domestic violence, drug court and veterans court.  The Council must approve these grants and subsequent contracts for administering them (Dawn Farm, Safe House).

The City council will consider six applications for grants from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality – Stormwater, Asset Management and Wastewater Program.  The total of these grants, if received, would be $7 million.

For several years, the City has worked collaboratively with the County, United Way and the Ann Arbor Area Foundation to fund human service organization projects.  The Council will decide whether to continue that collaboration.


There are always other items on the Agenda that might interest you.  Although I don’t know whether you want to think about amending the by-laws for the Design Review Board or the Planning Commission, those items are on the agenda.

I’m also keeping track of the City Council’s priorities on each agenda.  By my count, this agenda includes 38 action items – 23 administrative acts, 5 actions that are both administrative and address public safety, 1 action that is both administrative and relates to affordable housing, 8 infrastructure changes, and 1 investment in economic development.   For the record, this is slightly more than twice the number of items on the last Council agenda.


On the Calendar

November 6th
Downtown Development Authority monthly meeting, 12 pm, DDA offices.

AAATA Five Year Transit Improvement Program public meeting, 5:30 pm, Tappan Middle School.  This is one of a series of public meetings on the proposed changes to AAATA bus routes and schedules.

Citizen Participation Meeting for a proposed 8-unit development on West Liberty near First.  6:30 pm, Ann Arbor downtown library branch.

Planning Commission meeting - public hearings on proposed Traverwood development and proposed changes to D1 zoning.  7 pm, City Council Chambers.

On the Horizon

The City will hold a public meeting about Argo Park and parking issues on November 21.  Please come to the Traverwood branch library at 7 pm to hear more and offer your insight.

Working with the VA Hospital and the Vets Park Neighborhood Association, the City will participate in a "Gifts in Gratitude" holiday gifts drive.  Collection bins will be located at Veterans Memorial Park Ice Arena through Jan. 3, 2013 to collect new clothing and other donations for local veterans.  For a list of donation needs, call 734.794.6230, extension 42510.


What am I reading?

I haven't been reading anything related to City governance in the past few days - well, not particularly.  Revisiting some history of revolution and civil war, thinking about knitting and contemplating holiday cooking.  This year's best cookbook for me isn't a cookbook at all.  Provence, 1970 is about a winter when some of the best chefs in Western cooking were all in Provence.  I'm looking forward to the Feast Day Cookbook, a compilation of special dishes for each Catholic Feast Day.  I wonder whether there's a similar cookbook anywhere for Jewish, Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist feasts.  Nothing beats a feast, in my view.