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Caucus

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.

The Caucus starts at 7 pm.

Backdrop for President Obama's speech, 4/2/2014

April 6, 2014

Dear Neighbors,

Mud Season!  How I’ve missed seeing the fog and mud.  It’s great to wake up to bird song, too.

Just in the last few days I’ve felt the ice has melted and my walk is predictably free.  The crocus bloomed on Wednesday; the winter aconite on Monday.  Just a little warmer, and the witch hazel – which is always first – will perfume the air.

Some things I didn’t get done last year have continued to haunt me – the plants that I meant to move, the final cleanup – but the melted snow has revealed that my garden is in fine shape.  I’m grateful for small things.

Updates

Deer

Some folks imagined that the winter temps would result in fewer deer.  That doesn’t seem to be the situation.  Many of our neighbors remain frustrated – the deer eat their gardens and the only way to control is to build an 8-10 foot fence.  People all over the community are beginning to talk about killing the deer through a controlled hunt – using sharp shooters and driving all the deer into one location.  I can list the barriers to that, but I’m still learning about options.

Here’s an article about using contraception to control deer population from last summer.

Here’s some information about deer and their impact on the County parks

The growing deer herd is a regional issue, not a local one.  And that means we need to take a regional approach, working together with the County and the adjoining townships to find a solution and effectively implement it.  I remain open to ideas.

Pedestrian Safety and Access Task Force

 

The Task Force met for the first time on Friday, April 4.  I was able to attend, sitting in the audience.  And I was impressed with the quality of those on the task force, their willingness to take on the tasks set for them, and their desire to be guided by the community’s goals and priorities, not just those of the staff.

The staff had prepared a GANTT chart with proposed dates to start and complete various aspects of the Task Force mandate.  Task Force members confirmed that the chart did not represent hard and fast expectations, that they could shift the priorities, take a longer or shorter time for each concept, bring in outside experts, etc. 

The Task Force members were also invited to participate in evaluating and selecting the consultant.

“Why a consultant?” I hear you cry.  This is a near-quote: ‘The staff believes that this task force is a significant priority for the community.  But for staff to provide all the support, which we could do, would mean either that some other community priority is delayed or the task force’s meetings are delayed even further.  We would rather work with someone to facilitate and record the meetings than cause more delays on our community’s priorities.’ 

Task force members voted to elect a Chair and a Secretary.  They plan to meet later this month to discuss the roles assigned to each of these positions, and then hold elections.

As soon as I know when the next meeting is, I’ll try to make certain you know.

Fixing the streets

The snow has melted (mostly).  That means it’s nearly street / road work time.

This year the orange barrels will go up as the City resurfaces:

Visit the Street Resurfacing webpage for more information related to the projects above.

You’ll see the barrels longer on these streets, as they will be reconstructed (not all projects currently have project pages):

Other projects to be completed this construction season include:


On the Agenda

I intend to highlight just a few of the issues on the agenda for April 7.  If you want more background on any item, you can read The Chronicle’s preview of the agenda.

Public Hearings

Public Hearings may be held on resolutions; they are required for all ordinances.  On the April 7th agenda, there are two public hearings on resolutions.

First is a public hearing on a resolution to vacate a 7-foot wide strip of land on Ellsworth Rd and then accept an easement for that land for a non-motorized pathway.

The second public hearing is on a resolution to expand the boundaries of the Main Street Business Improvement Zone (BIZ).

Ordinances

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

None.

Ordinances, first reading                                                                                                         

The Council postponed the first reading of an ordinance on outdoor smoking from February 3 to March 3, and from March 3 to April 7.  The revised ordinance is again up for first reading.

Several months ago, First Martin donated over 2 acres of land to the City to expand the Stapp Nature Area.  This land is currently zoned R4 (multi-family); the Council will consider rezoning it to PL (public land) and adding it to the park inventory.

Resolutions

Resolutions from Council

City Council members remain active in their efforts to improve the City.  Two of those resolutions continue the discussion on the library lot.

I’m not in a rush to sell the development rights to the top of the underground parking structure.  But after the Council approved resolutions at our last meeting to establish a public space and then to sell the development rights, I thought about all the needed steps to make these decisions work.

Primary for me was to establish some public good out of these actions.  One of the areas for which there is never enough financial support is affordable housing – both the creation of more and the maintenance of what we already have.  The Council’s current policy is to set aside at least 10% of the net proceeds from any sale of public land for affordable housing.  I am offering a resolution (co-sponsored by Mayor Hieftje and Council members Taylor and Warpehoski) to specify 50% of the net proceeds from the sale of development rights will go toward affordable housing.

Some have suggested that there will be no net proceeds, because the revenue from the sale of development rights will go to pay off the bond.  Right now, the bond is being paid from a combination of Tax Increment Finance revenues and parking fees.  I expect to treat the expenditures that allow a building on this parking structure as ‘sunk costs’ and not expenses to be repaid.  But that is a decision that must wait until the development rights are sold.

I don’t like the idea that the Council might support a larger, less desirable building just to get more money for affordable housing, though.  ‘Public good’ doesn’t mean that we have to accept a bad idea in order to accomplish a goal.  So I was pleased to read a resolution, currently sponsored by Council members Anglin and Eaton, to delay hiring a broker until the community can establish its goals for the public space.  I’ve asked to co-sponsor.

I’ve suggested that the City bring in people from the Project for Public Spaces to help us identify solutions to both Liberty Plaza’s design and the design and use of the space adjacent to the Library.  I’ve been told that Council member Taylor plans to bring a resolution to the Council to begin establishing the public process for the space.  And I know that many members of the community are already deeply engaged in defining a proposal they can accept. 

The Planning Commission has proposed their ideas for the best type of building for this space.  The Ann Arbor District Library has offered their concerns about the public space.

Whatever the outcome of all of this, I continue to believe that the best thing for our community is a public space which provides a significant public benefit.  I’d love to hear your ideas.


Recent decisions in the courts have prompted another resolution.  On March 21st at about 5:30 pm, we learned that Judge Friedman, in Federal court, determined that the Michigan Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional.  County clerks in Michigan opened for business on Saturday, March 22 and issued over 300 marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  Quite a few of those couples live in Washtenaw County.  Some were able to marry on Saturday, before judges in the 6th Circuit Court granted a stay – meaning that no further licenses would be issued. 

The Federal government has recognized all marriages performed – for both federal benefits and spousal rights.  The State of Michigan refuses to recognize those marriages, although it states that the folks were legally married.

Council member Taylor drafted a resolution that requests Governor Snyder and Attorney General Schuette to stop defending DOMA, and allow couples to marry.  This resolution has been co-sponsored by Mayor Hieftje and Council members Briere, Lumm, Teall and Warpehoski.

Resolutions from Boards and Commissions

The Planning Commission resolution recommends that the City and the University cooperate on the design and use of the former Edwards Brothers property.

Resolutions from Staff

Postponed from the March 3rd agenda is an item to amend the budget and allocate up to $122,000 additional for the completion of the Pedestrian Safety and Access Task Force’s mission.  This item includes the allocation for a consultant.  However, the staff have determined that this allocation is not necessary.  They provided a revised memo to the City Administrator, stating that the $75,000 allocated for a sidewalk gap study can be used for the consultant’s contract; they estimate this contract will require between $70,000 and $90,000.

Given this additional information, I expect to withdraw the resolution.

Consent Agenda
Street closings for the Taste of Ann Arbor (June 2, the Event on Main Street (June 19), the Fourth of July Parade, and the Townie Party Ann Arbor Mile and Townie Street Party (July 14).

The Council will also discuss approval of a grant application to SEMCOG and MDOT to fund renovations to the Gallup Park pathway.

Other

Reports that might interest you include the City Attorney’s opinion on property assessments, the bond counsel’s memo on the parking restrictions in the Build America bond used to fund the underground parking structure; and the report from the Economic Collaborative Task Force (Council member Petersen).  You might want to read the letter from David Cantor and Matt Kulhanek about airport strategic planning.

As always, if any issue on the agenda is a specific concern, please let me hear from you.


On the Calendar

Sunday, April 6, from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.:the FestiFools Parade (the parade begins at 4 pm, but South Main from William to Washington, and Liberty from Ashley to Fourth Ave. will be closed to traffic at 3 pm)

Monday, April 7th, the Council Rules Committee will meet at 5 pm.  At that meeting, the Rules Committee will discuss the process that’s been used to identify possible amendments to the rules.  Council members have encouraged the Rules Committee to again try to address behavior and standards for Council members and the public.  The Rules Committee will meet later this month, I understand, to actually evaluate and discuss the proposed rule changes.  All committee meetings are public.

The League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area is inviting the public to attend a free community forum to learn about the ballot proposal from 7-8:30 p.m. April 7 at the downtown Ann Arbor library, 343 S. Fifth Ave.

Representatives from the More Buses pro-millage campaign and Better Transit Now opposition group have been invited to speak.  No member of Council will attend, because it conflicts with the Council meeting.  But you can go.

Citizen Participation Meeting

The developer of a proposed project at 121 Kingsley West has scheduled a citizen participation meeting for Thursday, April 10, 2014, 5 pm, at the Kerrytown Concert House, 415 N. Fourth Ave.  The developer proposes a rezoning of 121 West Kingsley from PUD (Planned Unit Development) to D2 (Downtown Interface) and construction of 22 residential units. Additional covered parking, drive, landscaping and stormwater detention will be constructed. See the announcement in the link for more information.


On the Horizon

At some point in May, Council meetings will move from the Council Chambers to other venues.  The 2nd and 3rd floors of Larcom (City Hall) will experience asbestos abatement.

On August 2, Manchester United will play soccer against some other team at the Michigan Stadium.  This will make for a busy August weekend.

The City Council approved temporarily moving the polling location for Ward 1, Precinct 7 from Pierpont Commons to Northwood (family housing) Community Center for the August 5 primary.


Support the Coleman Jewett Memorial!

A pair of bronze Adirondack chairs will be permanently installed at the Farmers Market. To Donate: Mail a check to Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation with “Jewett Memorial” in the memo; 301, Suite 300, N. Main, AA 48104. Or go to this link on their website to donate.


What am I reading?

I read books – electronically and physically.  Sometimes, the books I’m reading make this list, but a lot of the books I read are just brain candy – not nourishing, but fun.  One of those books is a cookbook: Confections of a Victorian Lady, by Suzanne Prefect.  This is a collection of hand-written (some are transcribed) recipes for various candies.  I’m now tempted to make some fondant.

Not on the brain candy list is a short Kindle book: Exit Ramp: a short case study on the profitability of panhandling, by David P. Spears, II.  I’m not reading this to get tips for my next job, but to gather more information on whether panhandling works.

There continues to be a lot of discussion about how the City should manage storm water.  I’m re-reading the EPA manual on Green Streets.  The City Council approved a Green Streets infiltration policy on February 18, 2014.