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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 the basement at City Hall through December, 2014.

The Caucus starts at 7 pm.

Island Park, light snow

February 1, 2015


Dear neighbors

I woke up with the realization that it’s nearly February 2nd.  For some of us, that only means ‘groundhog day’ but others may think about a variety of holidays.  It’s Candlemas, too – a day when tradition encourages me to make crepes or pancakes.  February 2nd falls midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, and when I was a child I became fascinated by calendars as a result of the ‘six more weeks of winter’ business.

In any year, there are six weeks between February 2nd and March 21st (the equinox).  So there was no way I could figure out that winter would end sooner than six weeks, shadow or not.  I became more interested when I learned that the ‘shadow’ issue really refers, not to the groundhog, but to whether the day is sunny or cloudy.  The Irish, Scots and English agreed that, if it was cloudy on Candlemas, then half of winter was gone, but if it was sunny, there was another half yet to go.

Some days you cannot win.  But I hope that the predicted winter storms continue to go south of us, leaving us with an open winter, however long it lasts.

I’ve ordered dahlias, in hope of spring.

While on an extended drive around the area today, I found myself counting potholes.  I like A2 FixIt, but resent having to identify an address or intersection when I report a problem.  I’m frequently not able to do that – because the problem is larger than a single address.  That’s the case with potholed streets.

This summer the City will be rebuilding and repaving still more streets.  It can do this because, in addition to the funding we have from our street millage, funds have been provided by the County (with that one-year road millage) and the State (with a small but meaningful decision at the end of last year).  However, Michigan has some of the worst roads in the country – which is nothing to brag about.

The State Legislature has proposed a solution – have us pay for roads by increasing the sales tax.  Some of us support this concept because we know the roads need repair, and something is better than nothing.  Some support it because – as part of the package – the ‘earned income tax credit’ is re-established for those families with less income.  And of course, many oppose the idea for a variety of reasons.

The vote is in May.  And if it passes, more funds will be dedicated to road repair.  But if it fails, the State Legislature will not have solved a problem; they will have made one worse.

Winter is hard on roads.  It’s hard on my street, and it’s hard on yours.  Small holes become craters; craters become worse.  I don’t want any of us to damage our cars because the money that ought to be available simply isn’t.  I look forward to June, and road repair season, and another round of the State Legislature’s struggle to meet current costs without increasing revenues.


Agenda highlights

City Council meets Monday, February 2nd.  Planning Commission meets Tuesday, February 3rd.  These meetings will be held in Council Chambers.

Chickens

The Council is still considering whether to amend the ordinance governing backyard chickens.  Currently the amendments create two different types of chicken permit.  One type allows up to two (2) chickens and continues the restrictions on location of the chicken coop, but does not require neighbor consent in all situations.  (Neighbor consent is required whenever a chicken coop and fenced enclosure are located closer than 40 feet from a neighboring residence.)  The second type allows up to six (6) chickens and requires a 21-day waiting period between the times notice is issued to adjoining neighbors that chickens may be permitted, and the issuance of the permit.  This allows neighboring property owners and residents to object to the permit.

Development

The Council will hold a public hearing and then discuss changing the zoning for a parcel on Plymouth Road from PUD to C3.  The Council will also hold a public hearing and discuss whether to approve a site plan for this parcel, modifying the existing building (the former site of Cleary University) to allow for a new Plum Market.

Council-generated resolutions

At the last Council meeting, there was only one resolution generated by members of Council – and that offered an opportunity for a long and interesting discussion about the ways the City government supports and interacts with the homeless.  There are several resolutions generated by Council on this agenda

The Council will vote on whether to authorize the City Attorney to prepare an amicus curiae brief for the DeBoer case in front of the US Supreme Court.  This case could reinforce or overturn the judgment of the Sixth Circuit Court that marriage equality is not a constitutional right.

The Council will vote on whether to enter into a licensing agreement with DTE to construct and maintain a solar array on property belonging to the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport.  If approved, this would become the largest installation of a solar array in the state, generating between 1.1 and 1.6 megawatts to start (with potential expansion to 2.15 megawatts).  It would also provide about $40,000 - $80,000 per year, money that would support the municipal airport (no tax dollars are used to support the airport now; this would only add additional funding).

The Council will vote on whether to support an intervention in the appeal protesting a DTE rate Increase .  At this time, DTE has requested permission to raise the electricity rates for both residential and municipal users.  The resolution notes that the City has intervened in the case, and requests that other municipalities join the intervention.  One significant aspect of this request is that it would result in an increase in the cost of operating LED street lights and a decrease in the cost of operating the old High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lights.  The City currently saves an estimated $200,000 in its energy costs by converting to LED street lights.

The Council will consider whether to support the request by Comcast that the company be allowed to spin off cable services to a new service provider, Midwest Cable.  This is the result of an effort by Comcast to purchase Time Warner Cable; the permit to purchase Time Warner is pending before the Federal Communications Commission.  If the FCC grants the purchase, Comcast would spin off a new company to provide services to Michigan and several other states in the Midwest.  The outcome of the effort to create a new cable company will not be affected by whether the City Council approves it or not.  Nor with the FCC decision be changed by the Council’s action.  Comcast has a state-wide franchise; this state-wide franchise would continue with the new company.

The impact to your life might be a new email address (that affects my husband) and possibly a new lineup of channels. 

Other

There are always other items on the agenda that I haven’t highlighted.  To learn more about what the Council will discuss on Monday, February 2nd, please look at the general agenda information.


Aura Rosser shooting

The State Police Report was released by Brian Mackie, the Prosecuting Attorney, and indicates that Ms. Rosser was impaired (cocaine and alcohol) at the time of the shooting.  By the report, this impairment resulted in threatening actions toward the police as well as her domestic partner.  The Prosecuting Attorney, citing the State Police Report, has determined that the police are not guilty of a crime.

MLive has covered the story fairly frequently, and has quite a bit of the background.  The most recent articles, about the State Police Report and about reactions by City officials to that report, may be worth your time.  A repeat of some of the comments plus reactions from the ACLU and calls for better mental health care are also in this article.

Homeless Count 

Last Wednesday, January 28th, several members of Council (Briere, Grand, Kunselman and Lumm) participated in the count of homeless in Washtenaw County.  This extensive count takes place every other year, and was conducted by over 80 volunteers from all walks of life.

You might imagine that the volunteers go to the various corners of the County and look for signs of the homeless.  It’s much more complex than that.  Each person encountered was asked to complete an interview with the volunteers; each person also signed the surveys and was offered the opportunity to have a photo taken – but not forced.

So, what was asked?  Everything from ‘Where did you sleep last night?’ to ‘How many times have you been to the emergency room in the past six months?’  Individuals were asked whether they have been attacked or beaten up, and whether they have ongoing legal problems.  They were asked about friends and activities, about income and debt.  They were asked about whether they had served In the military, and whether they receive any disability benefits of any kind.  And they were asked many questions about health – physical health, drug and alcohol use, mental health, learning disabilities, prescribed medicine that is not taken, physical and/or sexual abuse – an entire array of questions that seek to learn more about the people who are homeless.

I will be attending the community debriefing and presentation of accumulated data on Monday, February 2nd (see below).  This meeting is open to the public.


On the calendar

CANCELLED: Monday, February 2nd.

Point In Time (homeless) Count Community Debriefing
9 am – 11 am
Morris Lawrence Building, Washtenaw Community College.
Those attending will discuss the preliminary data and outcomes.  This is a public meeting.  Those who were not able to participate in the count are welcome to discuss the outcomes.

Tuesday, February 3rd.

Planning Commission meets at 7 pm in Council Chambers at City Hall
The Planning Commission will consider whether to recommend approval of changes to the East Huron Character District .  The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed changes, but has recommended postponement of the item in order to incorporate the results of the public hearing and Planning Commission discussion.

The Planning Commission will also hold a public hearing and discuss a proposed rooftop addition for 211 S. Main Street (in the Main Street Historic District).

Wednesday, February 4th                   

DDA Board meeting, 12 noon in the DDA offices
The DDA Board will meet to discuss a number of items, including improvements to the parking structure at 4th and William and the proposed ‘Ambassador’ program.  Four (4) slots are open for public comment at the beginning of the meeting.  Each person speaking has four minutes to make his/her point.

The City Council does not have a role in determining contracts between the DDA and other entities.  I attend most DDA Board meetings to learn what issues are being addressed.  If you come, wave.  I’ll be in the back row.

Pedestrian Safety and Access Task Force, 5 pm in the Basement meeting room
The Task Force will meet – with its usually heavy agenda to get through – to discuss updates from subcommittees.  Public comment is at the beginning of the meeting.

Thursday, February 5th

Citizen Participation Meeting for Meadowinds Apartments, 6:30 pm, Dicken elementary, 2135 Runnymede
Schafer Development has scheduled a citizen participation meeting to introduce a proposal to construct 318 apartments in eight buildings on a 20-acre site just south of the Grace Bible Church at S. Maple Road and Pauline Boulevard.
Postcard Notice:   Meadowinds Postcard.pdf

I won’t be at this meeting, because I’ll be attending the

Deer Management Meeting, 7 pm at Slauson Middle School
The City will host the second Deer Management Community meeting.  “The meeting will include a review of the survey highlights, a Q&A with a staff member from the City of Rochester Hills about their experience implementing a nonlethal deer management plan and members of the Washtenaw Citizens for Ecological Balance will present a deer management plan that includes lethal methods.”

Monday, February 9th

Citizen Participation meeting, 7 pm at 715-717 East Huron , Suite 1W
Carl O. Hueter has scheduled a citizen participation meeting to introduce a proposal to amend the existing Planned Unit Development at 715-717 East Huron Street. The amendment would allow the existing building to be converted to four dwelling units (two in each of the attached buildings).
Postcard Notice: CPO Postcard.pdf

Thursday, February 12th

Sustainability Forum, 7 pm in the multi-purpose room at the downtown District Library
The second 2015 Sustainability Forum will focus on Economic Vitality. Speakers will include:

Upcoming events in the series include:
March 12, 2015 – Sustainable Systems, including an overview of city wet weather projects and community-led solutions to increased precipitation.
April 9, 2015 – Responsible Resource Use, including an overview of waste, compost and recycling across the community.

Each program will include a series of brief presentations followed by a question-and-answer session. The forums offer an opportunity to learn more about sustainability in the community and tips for actions that residents can take to live more sustainably. Details of this series will be posted online at www.a2gov.org/departments/systems-planning/Sustainability/sustainability/Pages/SustainableAnnArborForum.aspx.


On the Horizon

Ann Arbor Citizens' Police, Fire and Courts Academy Now Accepting Applications for Participation

From the City’s website:  Citizens often wish they had a better way to voice concerns and ask questions about the public safety system. In turn, Ann Arbor police and fire and the 15th District Court members wish the public had a better understanding of the challenges facing police officers, firefighters, prosecuting attorneys, defense attorneys and judges. Now, all of these goals and more can be accomplished with the Ann Arbor Citizens' Police, Fire and Courts Academy, which aims to teach citizens about the public safety system.

First of its kind in the state of Michigan, the Ann Arbor Citizens' Police, Fire and Courts Academy provides a mechanism for educating the public about the public safety system and ways to avoid and prevent fire and crime.  The academy also provides a two-way communication between citizens, police officers, firefighters, attorneys and judges in the 15th District Court.

The Citizens' Police, Fire and Courts Academy is a 10-week program that will be held at the Ann Arbor police and fire departments, Washtenaw Community College and the 15th District Court. Classes take place weekly on Tuesdays beginning March 10 and ending May 12, 2015, from 6:30–9:30 p.m. Topics will include: police, fire and 15th District Court organizational structure, K-9 unit, detective investigations, firearms (F.A.T.S.), traffic stop scenarios, emergency management, National Incident Management Systems, first aid/CPR/AED, fire behavior, personal protection equipment, fire safety and prevention, hazardous materials, technical rescue, the criminal justice system, court processes and court programs.

For more information about this program or to download an application, visit the City of Ann Arbor website at www.a2gov.org/police or call Program Coordinator Adele El-Ayoubi with the Ann Arbor Police Department at 734.794.6933 x1. All applications are due by 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20, 2015. A background review will be conducted on all applicants; applicants will be notified if accepted into the program.

School/City Committee

Thursday, February 26, 5-7 pm
City Hall, Main Floor South conference room
This committee – consisting of School Board and City Council members, the School Superintendant and the City Administrator – was established in 1986 by joint School Board and Council resolutions.  For the past few years, however, it has not met.  This year, Council member Grand and I were appointed to represent the City (the first year for each of us) and we were able to have the initial meeting in January.  A meeting schedule is not yet established, but the second meeting will occur on February 26th.  All City Council and committee meetings are open to the public.


I continue to read Urban Alchemy, by Mindy Thomson Fullilove (I didn’t make that up).  Approaching urban planning and design from a public health perspective, and considering individual and neighborhood well-being – now that’s novel.

I'm waiting my turn at The Greatest Knight, the remarkable life of William Marshal, by Thomas Asbridge.  New at the district library, and here at my house for now.