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

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.  

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,

I thought that getting through the budget was a sufficiently challenging task, and took a few days off to visit our son.  That put me out of phone contact, but not email.  And it put me in a better frame of mind.  There’s nothing like walking in a redwood forest to put things into perspective.
While I was gone, unfortunately, Michigan grew.  It grew warm, it grew cold, it grew warm again – and it grew wet.  I have tall grass where I should have garden plants, and each day since we came back I’ve been trying to pull more weeds – in between rain showers.

The no-grass lawn I put in last year survived the drought and the winter – although I have to weed it, just as if it were a flower bed.  The peonies, iris and roses are all coming into bloom at the same time.  Down the street, my neighbor’s garden is aglow with double orange poppies, and the honeysuckle really is blooming on the honeysuckle vine.
Welcome to June!

On the Agenda

The Council will consider making changes to the rules that govern Council meetings.  These changes affect some aspects of public access – public comment will be held at every meeting, including work sessions; public comment will be limited to two (2) minutes instead of three (3) minutes at all public comment periods and all public hearings before the Council. In addition, those seeking a space during Public Comment Reserved Time – at the beginning of each Council meeting – will be limited to addressing the Council on agenda items (8 places available), non-agenda items (2 places available) and frequency (a speaker may not have a reserved space if s/he spoke at the last Council meeting during reserved time).

Council members will also be restricted to two (2) minute speaking turns.  This will take discipline – from me, if from no one else.

Public Hearings: Ordinances and Site Plans

There are public hearings on the following rezonings: The McMullen property, 3100 Geddes Ave. (from township to R1A); the Max property, 2503 Victoria Ave. (from township to R1C).

Site plan approvals require public hearings: 3945 S. State Street (construction of two retail buildings south of I-94) and  544 Detroit Street (construction of a new mixed-use office and residential building at Detroit and Division). The Planned Project at 544 Detroit Street is also seeking Tax Increment Financing (TIF) reimbursement through the Brownfield program; this requires a public hearing, as does the request to amend the Brownfield plan for Packard Square (2502 Packard).  The amendment doesn’t change the amount of the TIF reimbursement for Packard Square; it adds some different qualifying components.

The Council will consider an ordinance on the agenda that would set limits to fireworks.  Right now, it isn’t legal to set off ‘consumer’ fireworks at all – except on the day before, the day of, and the day after a national holiday.  Those exceptions were put in place last year by the Michigan legislature.  And last year, I heard from more than a dozen residents who found their rest and quiet disturbed by fireworks going off – much of the night of July 4th, and later on other holidays.  The Michigan legislature heard from those folks – and people all over Michigan.  In response to concerns about the safety and the noise, the legislature has approved a bill (pending the Governor’s signature) that sets limits on the hours when fireworks can be set off.  This ordinance establishes those same limits in local law.  (I initiated this ordinance change, in response to requests from our neighbors.)  If this ordinance is approved, setting fireworks off between midnight and 8 am on New Year’s Eve, the day after New Year’s, the 4th of July – and other national holidays would be punishable by a $500 fine.  Fireworks would be legal to set off between 12 am and 1 am on New Year’s Day, and between 8 am and midnight on New Year ’s Day.

The police will respond to complaints about illegal fireworks use.

On the Consent Agenda

The City Administrator is placing more items on the Consent Agenda; this is (potentially) a good thing.  But any Council member can pull an item from the Consent Agenda for specific attention.

The Consent Agenda contains street closings (Art Fair), service agreements and contracts (construction materials testing, lobbying, software maintenance, SPARK), minutes from the Insurance Board and acceptance of a grant for the Sobriety Court.  There are two items I might want to ask Council to discuss: a request from Dawn Farm for a temporary exemption from the Living Wage ordinance requirements, and a contract for the required environmental assessment for the wind project approved by Council last January.  I hope you will let me know what you think about these two items.

Ordinances, Second Reading

The Council will consider revisions to the Outdoor Advertising Ordinance that are intended to clarify and further restrict billboard advertising.  This ordinance amendment was on the agenda in April and in May.  Coverage in The Chronicle of those earlier meetings is here, here and here.  A public hearing on this ordinance was held on May 6; this was followed by public meetings on May 8th and May 29th.

Ordinances, First Reading

Ann Arbor has many surveillance cameras – but they aren’t funded by your tax dollars.  Just as the Boston Marathon’s surveillance camera film came from privately owned cameras on buildings, there are quite a few properties in business districts that have installed cameras.  This proposed ordinance would regulate where – and under what circumstances – the police can place un-staffed surveillance cameras.  (This is different from cameras in police cars; I am confident those are staffed.)

There Council will also consider whether to adopt the 2009 International Fire Code to make our fire code consistent with the Michigan Building Code.


Initiated by Council

At the Council’s meeting on June 3rd, the Council approved initiating the process to convert Ann Arbor’s public housing through the RAD process as well as providing supplemental funds to soften the economic blow associated with the Federal sequestration (see also my previous newsletter for June, 2013).  On the agenda is a related resolution to commit up to $382,000 toward operating cost deficits caused by the sequester – $159,000 from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and $223,000 from General Fund reserves. The entire amount committed may not be required if other funding becomes available.  I am sponsoring this resolution.

Council members Kunselman and Higgins are recommending that the Council approve upgrades for the Community Television Network’s truck ($77,711 from the General Fund).

Council members Warpehoski, Hieftje, Teall and I are urging a resolution that recommends SEMCOG reconsider their plans to spend significant dollars expanding I-75 and I-94.  Here’s a link to SEMCOG’s 2040 plan.

Initiated by Staff

The Council will consider an agreement with the Michigan Department of Transportation for resurfacing Packard (between Anderson and Kimberly).  This agreement is necessary in order for the project to be considered as a Federal Aid project.  Work on Packard is scheduled to begin in July.  The street millage will cover about $621,000 of the project costs, with the remainder coming from Federal grants (a total of about $826,000, with the project total being $1,447,900).

The Varsity, a Planned Project built on Huron and Washington (to D1 zoning standards) is requesting an amendment to its development agreement because it is unable to fit all the agreed-upon parking in its underground parking area.  The developers have worked with the DDA to provide off-site parking (paid) at the Liberty Square parking structure, and are seeking the amendment to confirm this contract.

Several items related to the budget have been initiated by staff.  First, the staff recommends amending the FY 2013 budget – that budget year ends on June 30th – to reflect some changes in actual (rather than anticipated) expenditures.  Then, with Council’s approval, the 15th District Court is seeking approval of several contracts.  These items are related because the budget amendments include $110,000 for two years’ worth of security at the Courts and $203,000 for the cost of indigent legal services.  The Courts are seeking approval for a contract with Washtenaw County for security ($160,000) and two contracts (one and two) for legal services for indigent clients (a total of $443,000).


There are always other items on the agenda that I haven’t highlighted.  Among these, the Council will also consider:

While I’ve linked to a lot of supporting documents, you can find the entire agenda and discussion materials on line.

On the Horizon

Summer should be fairly quiet – after all, we like to pretend that the University stops, all the students go home, and we can go anywhere without facing traffic.  Too bad that’s more a memory that a truth.

Construction will cause delays downtown, as Fourth Avenue is rebuilt between Huron and Liberty (until mid-July).  Other delays will be caused on Miller Avenue (until November between Maple and Linda Vista), Forest Avenue (reconstruction, starting in August), Barton Drive (resurfacing between Pontiac Trail and Plymouth Road starting July 22), and West Madison (reconstruction, until October).  The staff will continue to patch pot holes – but please, report them through 99-HOLES to make certain the staff hears about them.  (And let me know, as well, in case something falls through the ‘cracks’.)

Events: The Summer Festival (ongoing) will continue through July 7th.  The Art Fair will close streets and bring in hundreds of thousands of visitors between July 15 and July 20 (the fair actually begins on the 17th, but streets begin closing on the 15th).  Kick it off with the Townee Party on July 15th.  On Friday, June 21st, celebrate the Summer Solstice and the Full Moon at Gallup Park for a moonlit paddle – be there at 8 pm.  On Saturday, June 23rd at 5:30 pm, come to an open house at Leslie Golf Course on the Traver Creek Streambank Stabilization project – the work is done, and it’s our opportunity to see it. 

Meetings: City Boards and Commissions may recess for the summer, but many continue to meet.  The Parks Advisory Commission meets on Tuesday, June 18th at 4 pm in Council Chambers.  The Planning Commission meets on Tuesday, June 18th at 7 pm in Council Chambers (click for the agenda).  The Planning Commission meeting includes a public hearing on the City’s Master Plan adopted elements – prior to determining whether it should be recommended / amended and sent to the City Council for approval.  This action is required every year.  The DDA will meet at noon on July 3rd, but not again until September.

The staff proposes making changes to the definition of sidewalks.  They will hold a public meeting in the basement of City Hall at 5 pm on June 27th to discuss the impact these changes could have to the sidewalk millage and sidewalk maintenance ordinances.

What am I reading?

I took a trip downtown on Friday evening – to the Mayor’s Green Fair and the final night of Restaurant Week.  I stopped at the new book store (Literati, on the corner of Washington and Fourth).  I had no difficulty dodging construction, since I got there about 8 pm.  But it was Friday night – and thankfully Literati was open.

Of course, I bought a book: The Orphan Master, a novel of early Manhattan by Jean Zimmerman.  Hey, it’s summer!  And whether summer is full of events or really relaxing, we all need to read a book.

I also bought the most recent copy of Michigan Gardener.  There’s always an opportunity to learn something.