<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Second September newsletter 2012

Sabra Briere

First Ward, City Council
sbriere@A2gov.org
sabra.briere@gmail.com
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.  Lately I've met with neighborhood groups to talk about utility issues. 

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.  


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 and starts at 7 pm.
I go to almost all Caucus meetings.

9/17/12

Dear Neighbors,

I've heard from a number of you that the emailed newsletter I send out is a bit hard to read. I've also heard that it tends to be too long. I'll plead guilty to the last - I try to make certain I cover the highlights of the upcoming Council agenda while keeping you informed about meetings, surveys, issues and events.

So this is an experiment. I've placed the newsletter on my web site, where it's much easier for me to edit its appearance and contents. I hope you will let me know whether this new method works for you. Of course, I'll continue to send out highlights, but the full newsletter will live on line.

To give me your feedback, just send me mail or call me (995-3518 at home; 277-6578 to my cell).


What's happening at the river?

I took a tour of the work currently under way at the MichCon/DTE property across the river from the new Argo Cascades. If you have taken a walk along the cascades recently, you've seen a lot of flowers suddenly in bloom (black-eyed susans, I think). But you may also have looked across the river and seen the river bank with tree stumps where trees used to be.

This area used to be a coal gasification plant. MichCon bought it in 1938, and decommissioned the gas works in the late 1950s. It then became the MichCon Service Center.

This is a photo of the old gasification plant, as it looked in the 1930s. The pollution stretches into the sediment in the river bed and can be found several feet down in the soil.

Coal gas was used for light and heat; plants like this one made the gas by cooking the coal. The resulting coke was sold for fuel, and byproducts were simply dumped and buried. This was nothing to raise eyebrows about 100 years ago; I hope we've learned more about the environment since then. MichCon inherited the pollution along with the land.

Here's a link to the presentation Council heard in March, and to the MichCon/DTE website about this project. (These links work!) AnnArbor.com ran an early story on the work being done, and Michigan Public Radio covered it, as well.

This is an ongoing project that won't finish this year. So don't look for new construction, new ownership or new uses of this land in 2013. Many of us are expecting public access to at least some of this site, but those details have not been arranged.


North Main Task Force

I attended the North Main Task Force meeting on Wednesday, September 12. I took my knitting, but still failed to sit still and behave. My failure remains a source of concern for me.

This isn't the first North Main Task Force, but it's the first one I've been engaged with. Here's the report from the 1988 Task Force, with their vision of what should be done with North Main and the Huron River Corridor. The next meeting of the task force (October 3, 2012 at 5 pm in the basement meeting room at Larcom) will focus on clarifying the goals for the work and dividing the work into themes, so task force members can work more effectively. This most recent meeting included a presentation and give-and-take from representatives of MDOT about exactly what MDOT plans to do in the next few years.


On the Agenda

It’s a good thing that the agenda for September 17 is as light as it is.  All the interesting issues have a long history.

Ordinances and Public Hearings

There are no ordinances up for First Reading on September 17.

Public Hearing and Second Reading (and usually the vote)

Two Public Hearings are scheduled for the September 17th meeting.

The first is about rezoning a parcel of land near Bryant School from R1C (residential) to PL (public land). The Council purchased this land in September, 2011 with the intent to use it in conjunction with the Bryant Community Center. The Planning Commission recommended the rezoning in June. Here's coverage of that in The Chronicle. At that September, 2011 meeting, Council members learned that the 2011 taxes on the property were estimated at $1,400, which would be eliminated from the city’s tax base, once the property becomes public land.

The second is about rezoning two parcels from TWP (township) to R1C (residential). These parcels, off Dexter Road, are part of the necessary annexation of parcels as a result of the Gelman dioxane spill from the 80s, and its continued impact on ground (and therefore well) water.

Resolutions

The Council will consider a resolution to direct Planning and Development Services Staff to begin the process of rezoning six residential parcels near Geddes Avenue from R1B (Single-Family Dwelling District) to R1C (Single-Family Dwelling District). This rezoning would bring the properties into conformance for area (three of these lots are too small to qualify as R1B lots).

Also on the agenda is a resolution that would create a policy regarding the proceeds from the sale of public land.  This is pertinent because the City may consider selling some or all of the properties currently being used for parking near William Street.  Of course, there are other parcels of publicly owned land (that are not parks) that the City has considered and still might consider selling.
I’m not going to write a comprehensive history of the City’s efforts to support affordable housing.  You can find a thorough review of Council acts concerning funds for affordable housing through land sales at The Chronicle.  This is simply a digest to explain why this resolution would appear now.
On June 4, 2007 (before I joined the Council) the City Council passed a resolution revoking a 1998 resolution that had required that the proceeds from any public land sales be deposited in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. 
“RESOLVED, That City Council revoke Resolution R-481-11-98 which provided that the proceeds from the sale of excess City property be deposited into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.”
That resolution in 1998 states that:
RESOLVED, That all of the funds from the sale of excess city property, from this date forward, be dedicated to the City’s Housing Trust Fund, regardless of budget year, for use in developing affordable housing, after any funds expended relating to the disposition of the properties are reimbursed from the sales proceeds realized.”
This was an amendment to an earlier Council resolution (1995) which states, in part:
“RESOLVED, That any funds expended relating to the disposition of the properties be reimbursed from sale proceeds realized and that the remaining funds be divided equally between infrastructure needs and the Housing Trust Fund regardless of budget year.”
So the resolution in front of Council in June, 2007 essentially guaranteed that 100% of the proceeds from the sale of public land would go into the General Fund Reserve.  That’s what happened with the next excess land sale – the property at First and Washington brought in $2.2M.  These dollars were placed in the General Fund Reserve and, by resolution, were allocated to the Municipal Center Fund.
Indeed, the land sale after that – that 6 ft. wide strip of land that was recently sold to AATA for the Blake Transit Center – brought in $80K.  Staff members recommended using some of these dollars to fund the Connector Study ($60K, defeated at the September 4th Council meeting).
The resolution on the agenda for September 17th is a variation on the original resolution of 1995.  Instead of splitting the proceeds 50-50, or dedicating 100% of the proceeds to public art, it makes an attempt to meet several needs: funding for public plazas and public open space in the downtown (if the parcels that are sold are within the DDA, 5% of the proceeds would be dedicated to this use); infrastructure and capital improvements (no matter the location, 10% of the proceeds from any land sale would be used for a specifically designated – at the time of the sale – project that’s in the Capital Improvement Plan); and affordable housing (the bulk of the proceeds – 85% - would be set aside in the Housing Trust Fund).
I’ve heard some questions related to this resolution. 
Q.  Why not use any proceeds to pay for increased staffing in the police and fire departments?
A.  No one knows when or for how much the land would sell, so allocating these dollars for salaries and benefits would not solve any immediate concerns.  Also, the City may not sell land anytime in the near future. 

Q.  How much is the land worth?
A.  The DDA paid a consultant to provide preliminary information about the possible value of these properties, but didn’t request that those estimates be evaluated against realistic information.  You may read that report here, but please note that it is very draft.

Q. What if the City sells a parcel outside the DDA? Does 5% still get allocated to support for public plazas or open space?
A. No one has discussed this option yet, although I anticipate it will come up at the table on Monday.

Q. The Council keeps changing its mind about how to use the proceeds from the sale of public land. Isn't there some way to draft a resolution so you all don't have to keep amending and rescinding language?
A. This may also come up on Monday. The less we need to tinker with policy, the better.

Another item is a resolution to eliminate the requirement that non-profit organizations accepting a contract from the City of Ann Arbor (which can mean accepting support for a specific program) pay their staff in accordance with the City's Living Wage Ordinance. Since 2008 the minimum hourly salary in the Living Wage Ordinance has increased 18% while support for human service non-profits has decreased 11%. The Living Wage Ordinance is part of the City Code, and can be found in Chapter 23.

The Council will also consider suspending the Footing Drain Disconnect Program in two neighborhoods in the Mallets Creek watershed near Seventh and Scio Church. One of the efforts the City has made to reduce basement sewage backups after heavy rainstorms has been to disconnect footing drains from the sanitary sewers. The Council embarked on a City-wide plan to disconnect all houses, and has been working neighborhood-by-neighborhood to do just that since 2001. This resolution would require the staff to suspend the progam while they consider other means of dealing with sanitary sewer backups and the effect of storm water flow on these neighborhoods.

A final, interesting resolution is to adopt the Hazard Mitigation Plan, which provides an outline of hazards and possible ways to limit the effect of those man-made and natural disasters that can make our lives . . . interesting. Here's the plan as proposed. It's long, but not repetive, and deals with eveything from snow storms and plowing schedules to heavy rain fall and tornadoes and to surviving an electrical outage.

If you have questions or concerns about any item, please let me know.


On the Horizon

The election in November

Here's the text of the two millage proposals on the ballot. These are just two of several proposals: at least 6 from the State of Michigan, 1 from the District Library, and 2 from the City of Ann Arbor.

PROPOSAL A

ANN ARBOR CITY CHARTER AMENDMENT
AUTHORIZING TAX FOR PARK MAINTENANCE AND CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS


Shall the Charter be amended to authorize a tax up to 1.10 mills for park maintenance and capital improvements for 2013 through 2018 to replace the previously authorized tax for park maintenance and capital improvements for 2007 through 2012, which will raise in the first year of the levy the estimated total revenue of $5,052,000?

PROPOSAL B

ANN ARBOR CITY CHARTER AMENDMENT
TAX FOR ART IN PUBLIC PLACES

Shall the Charter be amended to limit sources of funding for art in public places and to authorize a new tax of up to one-tenth (0.10) of a mill for 2013 through 2016 to fund art in public places, which 0.10 mill will raise in the first year of levy the estimated revenue of $459,273?

Absentee Ballot Applications

If you meet one of the following criteria, you are eligible to appy for an absentee ballot:

Call the City Clerk for more information about absentee ballots or complete the attached request form and return it to the City Clerk at PO Box 8647, Ann Arbor, MI 48107, email:cityclerk@a2gov.org;  or fax: 734-994-8296.


Solid Waste Plan update

The City is currently writing revisions to the Solid Waste Plan (approved by Council in 2002). The staff and a committee of local residents have been meeting for months to discuss possible directions the City Council should consider. The committee is seeking your input. Please consider taking the survey and attending one of the public meetings. The survey is available at www.a2gov.org/recycle and in the most recent (Fall) issue of the WasteWatcher.

The committee will also hold two interactive public forums about the proposed plan. Participants will be able to add comments and vote on the suggestions provided by the other discussion groups.

Topics include, but aren't limited to, the following policy proposals:

Please join these public forums:


Calendar and Events

Fire Department Restructuring Community Meetings in September

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (TheRide) invites you to the unveiling of its 5-Year Program

Learn more about the AATA 5-year transportation plan on Monday, September 24 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Ann Arbor District Library Mallets Creek Branch, 3090 Eisenhower Parkway.

 


What am I reading?

Entirely too many storm water reports for the City of Ann Arbor (dating from 1974 through 2010). Most are focused on the Allen Creek, but some include the entire city. I'm grateful that I had sense enough to first read The Politics of Urban Runoff, by Andrew Karvonen.

I'm also reading Great American City : Chicago and the enduring neighborhood effect by Robert J. Sampson

And I'm still slogging my way through one of the denser books I've recently read:

Building Resilience: Social Capital in Post-Disaster Recovery by Daniel P. Aldrich