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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.

August 16, 2014

Dear neighbors

I have spent the last few months living in a Facebook world.  I confronted ways to get a message across in just a few words.  I thought about the difficulties of communicating complex issues in byte-sized chunks.  And I learned some things, both good and not so good.

So I am rethinking this newsletter.  I’m particularly and suddenly aware of the fact that the Ann Arbor Chronicle will cease chronicling meetings and issues.  For hard news junkies like me, this will be a serious loss.  The Chronicle had recently started previewing the Council agenda – and I used their previews to shorten my newsletter.

Now, I’ll be doing something else.  But I’m still finding my way.

On the calendar

The downtown library is closed while they rebuild the elevators.  It will remain closed until the work is done.

Sunday, August 31, 2014 from 11 am to 7:30 pm, the following streets will be closed for the Dansing in the Streets special event:

Wednesday, September 10 from 11 am to 3 pm for the Baracuda Bar-B-Q: the following streets may be closed: Maynard Street from Liberty to the entrance of the Maynard Street Parking Structure.  The structure will remain open and accessible throughout the event.

Updates on meetings

I recently attended the Citizen Participation meetings for a proposed 491-unit complex on Nixon Road at DhuVarren, and another for a proposed rezoning to residential use (with site plan to follow) on Felch near Ashley.

I also attended the most recent Sanitary Sewer Wet Weather Evaluation Project meeting.

Upcoming meetings include:

City Council on Tuesday, September 2nd in Council Chambers (No meeting on September 1 - that's Labor Day.)

Pedestrian Safety and Access Task Force on Wednesday, September 3rd at 5 pm in the Basement meeting rom at City Hall.

Agenda highlights

The dear deer

The Ann Arbor News published a preview article about a report on urban deer control that the City Administrator prepared for Council - and about the resolution that accompanies this report.

The concerns I have heard revolve primarily around the damage deer do to plantings - the way they eat tree seedlings and ornamentals, the harm they cause to native and exotic landscaptes.  There have also been the inevitable deer-car, deer-bike and deer-house collisions.  (At least, the house was not moving, but a panicked and running deer can run right through a glass door.)

The barriers to a solution for the deer include the following: culling the deer using shooters and bullets - State law prohibits firing a gun within 450 feet of a residence and local law prohibits firing a gun in the City at all; culling the deer using shooters and bow/arrows - dependent on the reports one sees, arrows are not efficient and increase the odds that a deer will be wounded, but not immediately killed.  Culling a herd must be done routinely.  Meat can be donated to food programs.

Several people have contacted me supporting culling - and others have contacted me seeking more humane options.  The resolution does not take a position, but does authorize $20,000 for continued staff time to work with MDEQ, UM, the County and the County Parks system to find a regional option.  The resolution would require public engagement in finding a solution that is accceptable to our community.

Of course, I want to hear from you on this.  Are you bothered or engaged by the deer?

Uber and Lyft and taxis - oh my!

Technology often causes us to reconsider what we know.  Have you learned about a new type of transit: LYFT and UBER?  These services, available through an 'app' on smart phones, allow riders to summon the closes participating vehicle, pay via credit card, and get rapid door-to-door service.  Ann Arbor's Taxicab Board wants to regulate these services, and the Council will consider an amendment to the ordinance governing taxis.  (Not all cities in Michigan want to regulate these companies as if they were taxis - Grand Rapids, Lansing, Kalamazoo and Flint are looking at other solutions, and Detroit has entered a two-year operating agreement.  Michigan legislators are looking at whether the 1990s taxi and limousine regulations should be updated.)

This ordinance is on the Council's agenda for Monday, August 18.  If it is approved at first reading, there will be a public hearing on the proposal before the Concil votes on whether to approve the amended language.

A related amendment would allow the taxi cab fares to be adjusted by:

I have heard from over 1000 people who use Uber.  Yesterday I spoke with one of our neighbors who suggested that - if he uses Uber over a standard taxi - the taxi companies should try to figure out why and maybe adjust their business model.  What do you think?

Leasing parking at Fuller

Not everyone knows that the City has been leasing parking spaces to the University at Fuller Park for decades.  This practice began in 1993 as part of a cooperative agreement between the City and the UM to protect some burr oaks from proposed UM development.  The City Parks budget relies heavily on the revenue from this agreement, and PAC has recommended approval of this resolution to extend the lease for another two years.

Resurfacing that last bit on Newport

The City will consider whether to partner with the County as they begin resurfacing that section of Newport that is in the township. There is a small segment in the City still needing to be resurfaced, and if the Council agrees to allocate $90,000 from the annual street resurfacing budget, the County will add this segment to their work - saving the City money and the neighborhood some continued irritation.

Other items on the Agenda

There are always other things on the agenda that I am not highlighting.  But that doesn't meant that I am ignoring them or thatthey are unimportant.  You might be interested in a proposed housing development by McKinley on South State Street.  You might want to know more about the renovation of public housing on Maple

There are quite a few new homes proposed around our community.  Some of them - such as those proposed on Nixon Road near Green and DhuVarren - are high-end and suburban in design.  Some - such as those proposed for Kingsley or those near the Farmer's Market - are more urban, and designed to appeal to both young professionals and empty nesters.

But there aren't many new units that anyone would consider 'affordable' - and this is an issue and an opportunity that many of us are discussing.

As the Planning Commission is considering revisions to the downtown zoning, some residents are returning to an idea that was rejected more than a decade ago - accessory dwelling units (ADUs).  Traverse City has approved overlay zoning for ADUs and is testing whether this opportunity will help people stay in their homes while they get income from a single rental.

If you live in a single family (R1) zoned neighborhood, any change in whether ADUs are allowed could affect you.  Would you like to more about ADUs?  We should talk.

I've been filling my head with fluff for the past couple of weeks - after all that mental heavy lifting earlier in the summer.  But this crisp, cool weather has re-energized me, and I'm back to confronting old issues and thinking about new solutions.

We should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the awared-winning author of Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun.

Why I Walk: Taking a Step in the Right Direction, by Kevin Klinkenberg - an advocate for better urban space and a stronger community based on pedestrian - not automobile - transit values.