<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> First November newsletter 2012

Sabra Briere

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

Coffee wakes some of us up

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

While I'm there, I meet with neighbors from all over our community to discuss the issues that concern them.  Lately I've met with neighborhood groups to talk about utility issues. 

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,

Now that Hallowe’en is over, it’s time to celebrate the next big holiday.  No, I don’t mean Veterans Day (November 11), although I certainly consider it important.
Election day is just a few days away.  Those of us who have opinions are likely to be asked by others about ballot initiatives and candidates.  I’ve been fielding such questions from people who are voting absentee, and am now getting them from those of us who will go to the polling site on Tuesday.  I’ll never suggest that you should vote any certain way, but I have received a really good piece from the League of Women Voters about the different state-wide ballot initiatives. 
There are a couple of concerns about the state-wide partisan ballot.  Most of us don’t have any idea about who serves on the state Board of Education.  We don’t know the regents of the University of Michigan, the governors of Wayne State University, or the trustees of Michigan State University.  On a more local level, we often don’t know much about the folks running for Ann Arbor School trustee, WCC trustee or the Ann Arbor District Library Board. 
While the state-wide positions are elected on the partisan ballot, the school and library boards and the WCC trustees are elected on the non-partisan ballot.    If you have questions about these races, I recommend reading the coverage in the Chronicle about the school board and library board candidates.  And here’s a link to the Washtenaw Voice coverage of the WCC races.
Vote411 has more information about the non-partisan races and the less well-known state-wide elections.  You can build your own ballot and compare candidates side-by-side.
(You may have noticed that I frequently recommend reading the Chronicle.  That’s because, for me, it is the least-partisan and most-accurate record around.  I don’t mind that the articles are long – they are also thorough.  I like partisan stuff, but I’m not trying to influence how and what you think.)

I was able to attend some meetings about the proposed development at the corner of Division and Huron.  This area is zoned for tall (150 feet maximum) and high density development.  The developer has proposed a building that just about fits the maximum buildable envelope for the site, has now been to the Design Review Board for their comments, and has held the official Citizen Participation meeting.  The developer seems to want to move quickly on this project, but is also willing to listen to the comments made by the Design Review Board and the folks who attended the Citizen Participation meeting.  It’s that willingness to listen – coupled with a clear ability to find a compromise – that I’m looking for on this project.  The corner of Division and Huron is very significant; what can be built there affects the historic residential neighborhood to the north as well as the entire Huron Street corridor.

On the Agenda

Ordinances with public hearing and likely vote

Plymouth Green Crossings (at Plymouth and Green Road) is a multi-story building with retail on the ground floor and residential units above.  The developer is seeking permission to revise the site plan (it’s a Planned Unit Development) to eliminate a proposed restaurant and replace it with a mixed-use office and residential building.  Public hearings will be held on both the PUD zoning and the PUD site plan, as this project cannot be amended in this fashion without Council approval.

From time to time the City reorganizes committees.  On the agenda is a recommended ordinance change that would combine the (current) role of the Sign Board of Appeals with the role of the Zoning Board of Appeals.  The rationale behind this change is that – for some years – the Sign Board has not met.  By combining the roles, a single board can apply city ordinances to both zoning and signage issues.  There’s a related resolution to dissolve the Sign Board of Appeals.


Brought by Council:
Community Action Network, which works on contract with the City of Ann Arbor to manage several community centers as well as running after-school and summer programs, is seeking an exemption from the Living Wage Ordinance.  Initially, members of Council had proposed exempting all human services non-profit organizations from the Living Wage Ordinance, while continuing to apply it to other contracts.  That proposed amendment to the Living Wage Ordinance was withdrawn.  This resolution replaces it.

Any non-profit may request an exemption for up to three years from the living wage requirements.  But they must also submit a plan to show how they can restructure in order to meet the requirements for paying a living wage.  Community Action Network has submitted such a plan: 1) they can eliminate services to children and families; 2) they can disqualify some current participants from participating in programs and services in the future; 3) the City can give them (and by extension, all other non-profits) more funding when the living wage increases; or 4) the City can exempt all non-profits from the living wage.  I’m not finding this to be a compelling plan for restructuring.

Another Council-initiated resolution was submitted late Friday, November 2 and would require the City Administrator to restructure the retirement pension plan for new hires from a defined benefit to a defined contribution plan.  I would be happy to discuss the difference between these two benefit plan types if you are interested.

Brought by staff:
Ensuring a safe route for all students to walk to their schools is one of my goals.  The City and the Schools have jointly applied to the Michigan Department of Transportation for a grant ($111,800) that would help pay for pedestrian and bike safety structures (including a pedestrian refuge island) and to reconstruct the sidewalk from Burbank to Whisperwood along Green Road.  This will help students living is this area have a safe route to Thurston elementary.

The staff are also recommending that the City Council approve an agreement with the Michigan Department of Transportation ($6,400) for the construction of a pedestrian refuge island on Huron Street near Thayer.

There are always other items on the agenda.  On November 8th the Council will consider whether to purchase a new refuse truck as well as whether to accept grants from the Michigan Supreme Court for the Drug Court and drug treatment.  There might be other items or reports that interest you, as well. And because the Council meeting is delayed due to the election, members of Council may still add items to the agenda (up until the end of business on November 8th).   Here’s a link to the full agenda

If you have questions or concerns about any item, please let me know.

On the Horizon

The election in November

Tuesday is election day. If this isn't on your horizon, it should be.
Polls are open from 7 am to 8 pm.  You can vote absentee in person on Monday, if your Tuesday is too busy.  Wear your "I voted" sticker with pride!




Shall the Charter be amended to authorize a tax up to 1.10 mills for park maintenance and capital improvements for 2013 through 2018 to replace the previously authorized tax for park maintenance and capital improvements for 2007 through 2012, which will raise in the first year of the levy the estimated total revenue of $5,052,000?



Shall the Charter be amended to limit sources of funding for art in public places and to authorize a new tax of up to one-tenth (0.10) of a mill for 2013 through 2016 to fund art in public places, which 0.10 mill will raise in the first year of levy the estimated revenue of $459,273?


Calendar and Events

There will be a public meeting on the proposed off-leash dog-park at West Park on

You can find a listing of City committee and commission meetings here.

What am I reading?

Everybody needs a little humor in her life.  And what could be funnier to someone like me than an etymological dictionary (of sorts!)
The Etymologicon, by Mark Forsyth, is one such book.  OK, it’s really about English English, not American English, but I don’t let that stop me. 
I was feeling a bit womblecropt this week, but when this book came home from the library I seized upon it with glee.
It’s not precisely about word origins.  It’s more about word relationships.  Whether you like your root words served up in Latin or German, in Sanskrit or Gaelic, there’s some connection in this book that will make you laugh or – even better – learn something.
About jokes:  We’ve all told them, and we all know the one about the certain (define your own) ethnic stereotype.  But I didn’t know that Nazi isn’t an acronym for Nationalzocialistiche Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Worker’s Party, in case you forgot).  In reading the book (the section on ‘insulting names’) I learned that Nazi really is a not-too-flattering nickname for Ignace/Ignatius – which was a common Bavarian man’s name in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  And many Germans from other provinces told jokes about the poor, ignorant Bavarian peasant – Nazi.
The stuff you learn!  You should check it out.