<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Second December newsletter 2013 sec

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.

The Caucus starts at 7 pm.


Dear Neighbors,

The first significant snow of the season always catches me unprepared.  I’ve placed a bag of kitty litter in the back of the car (good if I get stuck).  But I haven’t dug out my boots, and we don’t have the holiday lights up yet.  I always intend to do that Thanksgiving weekend – but we never have.
That first snow seems to catch the rest of us unprepared, too.  If you watched the snowfall from the warmth of your living room yesterday, I know you had a lovely afternoon.  If – like me – you had promises to keep, you will have likely done as I did, and grumbled about the condition of the streets.  I tracked the snow plows, too. 
If you feel inclined to refresh your understanding of City snow plowing / deicing practices, here are some links to the City’s website:
Frequently Asked Questions, like “How can I avoid having a city plow truck push snow into my driveway after I clean it?
A fact sheet on “White Snow / Green Streets”.
A program that maps the current location of all snow plows (which is rather cool.  As I typed this, I could see plows on Barton, Indianola and Chandler).

If none of this makes you happy - and the website is only so good - here's the phone number for the SNOW desk (734.794.6362), which should be answered by a live person during every snow event.


Although we are moving toward the holidays, meetings and events seem to be picking up more than winding down.
On Tuesday, December 3rd, the Planning Commission approved a resolution to go to Council, making recommendations about changes to zoning downtown.  During the public process before the Planning Commission approved that resolution, members of the public were very concerned about protecting existing neighborhoods and the look-and-feel of our downtown.  Here is the staff report, with the final draft of the resolution, from the Planning Commission.
On December 4th, I attended a meeting about constructing a culvert beneath the railroad tracks at Main and Depot.  This is an idea that was also discussed in the North Main Huron River Vision Task Force Report.  There are several opportunities offered here, and I’d be happy to hear your views on this project.
The primary purpose of the culvert would be to allow storm water to drain from the Main / Depot / Summit / Fourth Ave. area, under the tracks and to the river.  The secondary opportunity, though, is to construct the culvert in a manner that results in a passage large enough for pedestrians and bike riders.
This is not a short-term project.  Were it to be built, it likely wouldn’t open until after DTE allows the public on its land – and that might be several years from now.
There was a meeting on December 12th about adding peak hour lanes to US23.  Were these lanes to be built – as proposed today – to handle more single-occupancy vehicles, there could be some significant effects on our community.  Some of us worry that demand for parking – for downtown business customers, for UM employees – will continue to grow.  Some of us have noticed that our ‘rush minutes’ have already turned into ‘rush hours’ or, more accurately, a level of gridlock that requires 3-4 red light cycles to cross an intersection. 
You can read more about the proposed peak hour lane expansion in this Ann Arbor News article.  Here’s what the Sierra Club has to say about the proposal.  The City Administrator wrote a letter to MDOT outlining issues with the proposal.  If you have concerns about whether MDOT should add more ‘peak hour’ lanes to US23, please let me know.
And for those of us interested in providing feedback, MDOT is seeking your input about the work they are doing.  Take the survey.

The Council’s retreat

The Council held a special meeting on Monday, December 9th before going into retreat.  The special meeting was so Council could hold a closed session to discuss land acquisition. 

During the special meeting, the Council unanimously approved a resolution to extend to December 16th the time for folks to apply for the Pedestrian Safety and Access task force.  If you meant to apply, but didn’t, please submit your application.  The task force will consist of nine (9) community residents; the resolution also asserts that this task force shall include representatives from organizations that address the needs of school aged youth, senior citizens, pedestrian safety, and people with mobility impairments.

The City operates on a two-year budget planning cycle; the budget is approved annually.  The budget retreat in 2012 created the basic budget for 2014 and 2015.  The retreat this year was to confirm whether the basic budget was reflecting the best set of priorities.

Much of the time during the retreat was spent addressing team-building.  But the Council did receive briefings from the City staff about how well each of the priorities set at the December 2012 retreat had been addressed, discussed whether setting priorities without much of a plan was productive, and ratified the basic set approved last year – with one addition: setting a priority for reinforcing our quality of life.

Of particular interest to me was the report from Chief John Seto about safety services.  And while this report may not provide all the information we want, it was eye-opening to him, helping him determine ways to implement service changes.  The Ann Arbor News wrote about this report and interpretation.

Here’s a link to all of the staff updates on the budget priority areas.  

This year, the six priorities for the Council to consider as it makes decisions include:

I didn’t run a budget survey this year, although I may after the new year as I learn some of the possible changes to the budget.  But I still want to hear whether the City is making reasonable decisions about budget is. 

On the Agenda

Sometimes I get my newsletter finished before The Chronicle publishes its preview of the Council agenda.  Not this week.  For a different view of agenda items, click here.

Public Hearings 

The Council will consider two requests for zoning due to annexation.  Both of the properties are on Victoria Circle; both would be rezoned R1 from Township.

The Council will also consider a resolution that establishes a fee for on-street parking spaces that are removed for construction.


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

Two rezoning ordinances – for 2119 Victoria Circle and 2121 Victoria Circle – will be considered.  These rezoning reflect a request to annex into Ann Arbor; this annexation is not triggered by Pall-Gelman Life Sciences concerns.

Ordinances, first reading

There are no other ordinances on the agenda.


Resolutions from Council

The resolution about on-street parking is just one of several that Council members have proposed to address on-going problems.  Also on the agenda:        


Resolutions from Boards and Commissions

There are no resolutions from Boards and Commissions on the agenda.

Resolutions from Staff

Consent Agenda

Two items related to solid waste are up for consideration in the Consent Agenda.  The Council will consider an amendment to the City’s contract with Waste Management for commercial collection services.  The change includes amendments to the fee schedule, but does not affect the City’s budget.  Another item – the purchase of 300-gallon capacity recycling carts – will be used to expand the City’s commercial and multi-family recycling services.

Last fall the Council approved the Solid Waste Plan.  In that plan was a recommendation to expand compost collection to include all food waste.  Composting all food waste would not require a significant change in compost capacity or a significant change in the contract for composting. 

The Council will consider whether to expand compost collection to include all food waste.  In the same resolution, the Council will consider approving new 1.5 gallon food waste containers and a reduced price for compost carts ($25).  These changes would not result in any change in the frequency of trash collection.  The cost for this program would be covered by the Solid Waste Enterprise Fund reserves ($64,550.00) and approval will take 8 votes.

The Council may amend the budget to accept a $50,000 grant from the USDA to implement a targeted tree maintenance program to improve water quality and improve/enhance the urban and community forest. Approval of this grant and its allocation will take 8 votes.

Recently, metal shavings were found in the oil tank of the baler at the Materials Recovery Facility (the recycling sorter).  This meant that the bearings on the machine were failing; things wear out.  The City had established a fund for maintenance; this fund covers the cost of repair and replacement for the facility.  The Council would need to approve an amendment to the budget ($62,613.77) to cover the cost of the repair; there are sufficient funds available in the Capitalized Renewal and Replacement Account for this expenditure.  Amending the budget requires 8 votes.


There are always other items on the Agenda that might interest you, although this agenda is rather slim (just thirteen items).

You might be interested in the veto of the amendment to the Crosswalk ordinance.  

On the Calendar

The Planning Commission will meet at 7 pm on Tuesday, December 17th in Council Chambers.  At this meeting, the Planning Commission will consider the revised site plan for 624 N. Church – a plan that significantly expands the size of the proposed building.
Earlier on Tuesday, December 17th, the Public Art Commission’s Argo Cascades Selection Panel will meet (1 pm, 6th floor conference room).  This meeting may result in a recommendation of art & artist for installation at the Cascades.
City offices will close on December 24th and remain closed on December 25th.
New Years Eve and New Years Day will be different in Ann Arbor this year – and that’s because the Canadians are coming.
New Years Eve: A design and fabrication shop in the First Ward, Metal, has been constructing an LED-lit giant puck that will drop at midnight near the corner of Main and Liberty.  Main will be blocked off from William to Huron; so will cross streets at Liberty and Washington.  The party will begin about 8 pm, and will end around 2 pm, although the streets will be closed all day for set up.
All of this is a prelude to the 1 pm Winter Classic hockey game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium on January 1st.  This means that Main Street near the stadium will be blocked off in the morning and will continue to be blocked until the game is nearly over. 
Parking for the game will be available at all of the City lots and parking structures.  For the first time, parking will not be free on New Years Day.  Buses will provide transportation from parking structures to the stadium and back.
You can read more about the Puck Drop and the accommodations for parking, transit and the hockey game here.

On the Horizon

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?

Atlantic Cities digital daily report recently highlighted a new book: Happy Cities by Charles Montgomery.  Several neighbors sent me the link – and since I subscribe to Atlantic Cities, I read about it, too.  It’s now resting comfortably on my electronic bookshelf.
I'm still reading Completing Our Streets: The Transition to Safe and Inclusive Transportation Networks by Barbara McCann.  Much of this book is about the rationale and history of the Complete Streets national policy.