<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Second May 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.  

I will not be holding Office Hours on May 29.  Have a great Memorial Day celebration.  I will be there at 7:30 am on Tuesday, May 30, though.  Please come to discuss your ideas and concerns.

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,

At least with Michigan weather, it seems impossible to be bored. I traditionally start buying annuals the Saturday before Mother’s Day – but with the frost both Friday and Saturday nights at my house, I put it off.  The deer came and ate the flowers from a geranium that I put out before I knew how cold it would be.  I hope it tasted good – I replanted the roots, and have crossed my fingers.  The air has been perfumed by apple and lilac all week, and my early peonies are opening in succession (fern leaf first, followed by tree peonies, and then the herbaceous ones).  But the daffodils are mostly gone, and only a few tulips bloomed – even without help from the deer.
It hasn’t been a boring week in other directions, either, but I’m looking forward to taking a deep breath later this month.

City Budget on the agenda:

The City Charter requires that the Council approve a final budget on or before May 31 of each year – this budget has to balance, although it can use fund reserves to create that balance.

In an ideal year – which this isn’t – the City Council members would have drafted possible amendments to the budget significantly in advance, all such amendments would have been evaluated by the staff for their impacts to planned programs and services, and then have been shared with all of Council.  Council members could consider whether to co-sponsor, support or oppose these amendments over the few days prior to the City Council budget vote, and we would all feel confident in our decisions.

But this year the amendments have come to staff quite late.  I know I’ve submitted five (5) possible amendments and decided to co-sponsor another.  I don’t know how many other possible amendments have been submitted, and I don’t have a staff evaluation of any, including mine, in writing.

Although the vote on the budget is last on the Agenda, I’ve put it first in this report.

The City Administrator drafts the budget, with input from Council members and staff.  If the budget doesn’t get eight (8) votes, then any amendments to it fail, and the Administrator’s budget is approved by default.  Any budget amendment needs six (6) votes in order to become part of the final budget.  As a result, some Council members try to line up supporters for their amendments in advance.  I don’t.

I referred back to the priorities the Council identified at the budget retreat in December: a balanced budget that provides funds for services; an optimized safety services (fire and police) program; improved infrastructure; economic development and affordable housing.  I chose to focus on infrastructure and affordable housing, but also looked at human services and public art.  I hope these amendments find favor with the Council.

My proposed amendments are:

Public Art: The revised public art ordinance – which eliminates the Percent for Art funding mechanism – will be on the agenda for a final vote on June 3.  (If you haven’t taken the survey on this ordinance yet, please click here.  The survey will close on May 24.)  Because the ordinance that’s currently in effect is the old one, the City would expect to allocate 1% of allowable capital improvement dollars toward public art.  I’ve proposed eliminating this step by removing $326,464 from the budget for art in public places.  If the revised ordinance passes, the Council will need to amend the budget, returning this money to the various originating funds.  The Council could choose to postpone this amendment and wait to see whether the ordinance changes.  If that were the decision, it would take eight votes to amend the approved budget on June 3.

Affordable Housing:  The City Council has supported affordable housing activities in one way or another for more than 30 years.  Affordable housing is rather broadly defined, and based on HUD policies could be anything from housing with rents based on a percentage of the adjusted median income (under 80% of AMI) or housing specifically targeted on any of several groups – workforce housing, housing for senior citizens, housing for families, or housing for those who need additional services.  During the recent economic downturn – call it a depression, recession or setback – the City didn’t put any funds into affordable housing, and used most of its remaining fund balance to support and maintain public housing stock.  I’ve drafted an amendment that would allocate $100,000 to affordable housing, and direct the staff to find a way to incorporate this allocation into budgets from now on.

Human Services:  Although this wasn’t explicitly listed as a priority during the budget retreat, Ann Arbor City Council members have been consistent in their desire to keep some funding for human services in the budget.  Council members have been able to continue to fund – at a lower level – human services here in our community when other communities have ceased all funding.  This year are several issues with Human Services that might have been anticipated in the budget, but weren’t. 

First, the sequestration of federal human services funds – among other funds – could result in an overall decrease of $3 million for Washtenaw County.  There isn’t any way in our budget to make up for that loss – and there isn’t any way for human service organizations to manage without it, either.  I am offering two amendments (one for $78,825 to cover costs for human service contracts through the Housing Commission, the other of $4,500 to cover costs for senior meals at Miller Manor).  These funds will be used in the event that the federal sequestration doesn’t end by June 30, 2014.

Second, the City joined its human service program to the County’s program, and then agreed to participate – for three years – in the Coordinated Funding model that combines resources from the City, the County and United Way.  The funding allocation for human services should have remained stable throughout this process – but it didn’t.  It dropped by $46,899.  I’ve drafted an amendment that would restore the allocation to last-year’s amount, and requesting that this increased amount be the base amount in future years.

These amendments would use General Fund fund reserve.

Infrastructure:  One of my peculiar issues is that I want sidewalk gaps filled.  Although it has taken entirely too long, I’ve worked to encourage the staff to look for ways to deal with sidewalk gaps on Newport Road and Barton Road.  I’d like to do more – and this year the City staff has determined that the best solution is to create a plan that prioritizes filling those gaps.  I have recommended a one-time allocation of $75 K to fund a prioritization and implementation plan.  The General Fund public services budget would be increased, using General Fund fund reserves.

Other amendments possible:

The City agreed to help fund the Washtenaw Health Initiative ($10,000) a year ago; at the time we approved this funding, the Council understood that this initiative would need an additional $10,000 for a second year.  Both allocations are intended to get this program running in the wake of the Affordable Care Act.  The mayor has proposed a budget amendment to cover this amount; I’ve agreed to co-sponsor.

Several Council members are looking at department budgets that have increased significantly over the past few years, to see whether those budgets can be reduced, with the resulting funds either reallocated or placed in the General Fund fund reserve.  I haven’t yet seen the final proposals.

At least two Council members are looking at the DDA’s budget – which should, but doesn’t yet include the additional TIF captured dollars that were a topic of much discussion over the past month or so.  I’ve received a copy of two versions, but don’t yet have final versions to share.  One interesting aspect of the two versions I’ve seen is that each would recommend the DDA allocate additional funds toward affordable housing – one of the priorities identified by the Council.

Over the past few hours I’ve received many requests that the City increase its allocation for alternative transportation (this is a redirection of Act 51 funds [gas taxes intended for transportation uses], not a use of General Funds).  I do not know whether any member of Council is planning to introduce such an amendment.

As is always the case, multiple members of Council may co-sponsor an amendment.  They may also work with staff to draft different solutions to the problems the Council sees; it is possible that members of Council will have competing amendments for the same pool of funds – or that they will see different ways to achieve a desired end.  Not all amendments get the six votes needed to pass; the budget discussion promises to be interesting, especially as we may not see all the budget amendment proposals before Monday evening.

On the (rest of the) Agenda

Public Hearings, Ordinances, Second Reading, Site Plan approvals


Ordinances, First Reading

Council members Warpehoski and Anglin are bringing to the table an ordinance that restricts the location and circumstances of unstaffed police surveillance cameras.  If you are concerned that the City should – or should not – install police surveillance cameras in residential areas, public parks and the like, you should read the draft ordinance. 
The Council will consider – as part of the budget process – new water, sewer and storm rates.  As part of the budget process, each year the Council adjusts fees, fines – and, as near as I can tell – water, sewer and storm rates.  These rates are controlled by a separate ordinance, and require a first and second reading as well as a public hearing.  The public hearing – assuming this ordinance passes first reading – will be scheduled in June.


Council members Higgins and Petersen offer a resolution that would establish a task force – that would report back to Council by December 31, 2013 – on economic development.  This task force (6-10 members) would include members of City Council (Higgins as Chair, Petersen as a member), the DDA, and SPARK.  The goal is to begin to implement the Council’s economic development priority by working to:
·        Provide clarity, alignment and specificity on economic development policy and objectives for fiscal year 2014 toward accomplishing City Council's success statement for Economic Development.
·        Provide for strategic alignment of priorities between the Task Force member entities.
·        Highlight cost sharing and maximizing of resource utilization.
·        Identify options for sustaining, modifying, or eliminating operations in a financially-responsible manner through efficiencies and/or partnerships as part of a cohesive economic development plan for the City.

The staff have requested approval of a change order for PK Contracting.  The original contract (for refreshing pavement markings for bike lanes, cross walks, speed humps and lane indicators) was for $405,000 and was approved in July, 2012.  Actual work turned out to be more extensive; the final scope of work exceeded the budget.  Council is being asked to approve an additional $140,000 to cover the necessary work in the next two fiscal years.

Several items address the current (FY13) budget.  The Council will consider altering the PACE bond budget to allow expenditures from the bond over multiple years.  The emergency generator for Fire Station 6 should be replaced; this wasn’t in the budget for fire services, and replacing it requires a budget amendment.  The Public Art Administrator – a contractor – has worked more hours than anticipated when the contract was drafted; increasing the contract by $5,410 will bring the total contract amount to $30,400.  (Note, the proposed revision to the public art ordinance cannot be voted on until June 3; this contract is for FY13, and will not be affected by any approved revisions.)


There are always other items on the agenda.  Street closings, contracts – and the budget, including revised fees – all have their place.  Some of the interesting reports include this one from the Planning Commission about the R4C/R2A task force.  A resolution on the task force’s report is not before the Council at this time, but Planning staff and Planning Commission members have recommended that the Council take the next step – which doesn’t include zoning or ordinance changes, but could include directing the Planning Commission to take up certain aspects of the recommendations.

On the Calendar

The Planning Commission will hold public hearings on Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 7 pm, Council Chamber, second floor, Larcom City Hall (301 E. Huron)

The first is for the Master Plan Review. The adopted master plan elements may be found by clicking on this link. At the public hearing, the Commission is seeking comments about Master Plan elements that should be studied for possible change or new elements that should be added.  This information is important to the Planning Commission in setting its work program for the upcoming fiscal year.  The Planning Commission will also hold a public hearing for the South State Street Corridor Plan. The Planning Commission is seeking comments on the final draft South State Street Corridor Plan.

The North Main Huron River Vision Task Force will hold its first public meeting at 6:30 pm on Wednesday, May 22 at the Ann Arbor Community Center.  Although I cannot attend, I’ve worked with this task force to assemble ideas.  It’s time to have the community discuss those ideas and help form the recommendations to Council.  If you cannot attend the meeting - or even if you can, but want to provide more feedback - there will be a survey on Open City Hall starting May 22.
City government offices, including the Ann Arbor Municipal Center at 301 E. Huron in Larcom City Hall and the 15th Judicial District Court at the Justice Center, will be closed on Monday, May 27 for the Memorial Day holiday. Safety services and utility operations will maintain 24-hour schedules.

There will be no trash, recycling or compost collection services in the City of Ann Arbor on Memorial Day Monday. The Monday pickups will occur on Tuesday, and the rest of the collections will occur one day later throughout the week. The normal Friday routes will be serviced on Saturday, June 1.

There will be plenty to do over Memorial Day weekend in the Ann Arbor parks. The city’s three outdoor pools — Buhr Park, Fuller Park and Veterans Memorial Park — will open for the season on Saturday, May 25, as will Gallup Canoe Livery.

The Allen Creek Greenway Conservancy is hosting a Picnic on the Greenway (flyer attached) on June 2nd.

On the Horizon

Wednesday, May 29th
The North Main Huron River Vision Task Force will meet in the basement at Larcom between 5-7 pm.  This meeting will focus on the feedback from the presentation of the Task Force’s recommendations.  (That event is scheduled for May 22nd from 6:30 – 8:30 at the Ann Arbor Community Center.)  All meetings of the Task Force are open to the public.

The Project Management staff will meet with the public at Northside School to discuss improvements to Pontiac Trail between Skydale and M-14 on Thursday, June 6th at 6:30 pm .

What am I reading?

I continue to review two books by Julie Campoli: "Visualizing Density" and "Made for Walking: Density and Neighborhood Form."  I highly recommend these to anyone who is concerned about increased density, open space and green space, and effective urban design.  If you need to borrow a copy (one person I know referred to these as '$50 books') I'd be willing to consider it.

One of our neighbors recommended that I read "Slow Democracy" by Susan Clark and Woden Teachout.  I ordered it, and am working my way through it.