First Ward, City Council
Coffee wakes some of us up
I hold office hours 7:30 to 9 am on most 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.
Caucus is held at 3:30 pm on the Sunday prior to each Council meeting.
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.
The year my son was born, his grandmother sent me $1.00 to buy ornaments for the tree. She told me to buy an ornament each year until he left home, so he could start his adult life with all those memories. It was a great idea. My family had a tradition of getting (or making) something each year for the house; I combined those and acquired ornaments that reflected the world around us and memories of the year just finishing. That first year, it was three hand-carved wooden wise men. (Yes, it was a long time ago! I cannot imagine finding a meaningful ornament for $1.00 now.) Each year, year by year, I got an ornament or a set of ornaments, made ornaments, made decorations – and when he left home, he left all those ornaments with me. I still have them and add to the collection each year – now 46 years of memories.
There’s the tin tree (1975), the banjo (1977), the saxophone (1988), the polar bear (2008), the fire truck (2010), numbers and numbers of musical instruments and cats – and the deer. Oh, the deer. Some day these will all go to some other home (I hope) and help them form new memories.
There’s a bit less than two weeks before we welcome a new year. If only the new year were bringing that bright promise of new ideas and better solutions that I seem to be craving.
I had thought I’d have more time, too – somehow, the future seems to stretch out forever, and the past seems to compress. Yet here we are, again at the end of the year, and my to-do list isn’t any shorter, even if it is different.
At this time of the year, I would like to pause for reflection. I just don’t have the leisure, yet. Perhaps you feel as I do – an urgent need to tie up loose ends, finish projects, clear your (figurative) desk of pending tasks – all so you can relax for just a few days before it all begins again. And what I’d like to do is urge us to take that walk in the woods, now, before things start to happen on January 1st.
The issues surrounding the deer cull – and the recommendations for safely implementing that cull – continues to be in the press, and is a topic of concern in many of the emails I receive. Not everyone wants to read or know everything about this, though, so I’ve written a little (for me) background story. Click here if you want to read about this. And drop down to the coverage of Agenda items to see what might change.
THE COUNCIL RETREAT
Each year the Council meets, in part to set priorities for the budget and – lately, at least – to discuss ways in which Council as a whole can improve its governance role. This year, the Council met on Monday, December 14th.
A major portion of the meeting was given over to discussing governance. This is as it ought to be. The City is on a two-year budget cycle, with the priorities set in 2014 for the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 budget years. Very little will change in the overall priorities during the budget discussions in the next few months, although there remains some room for creativity.
CITY STAFF CHANGES
You may have heard that the new police chief, who was expected to start on January 1, decided to remain in Detroit. To me, that means the search for a police chief ought to begin again. That decision rests with the City Administrator.
On December 11th, Council members had the opportunity to be part of the interview process with candidates for the Community Services Area Administrator. This staff position has oversight for the parks, planning and development, human services, and building services activities. I really look forward to having someone in this role.
Interviews for the next City Administrator have not begun, although I expect to see candidates in the next 30 days or so.
NIXON / DHU VARREN / GREEN
The staff met with residents about the impact of proposed new development on the Nixon corridor on November 9th. Pertinent FAQs and responses to community concerns are here:
• Informational Meeting Agenda (PDF)
• Informational Meeting Graphics (PDF)
On the Agenda
CITY COUNCIL MEETS ON MONDAY, DECEMBER 21ST. The Council meets in City Council Chambers. This is the last Council meeting of 2015
At the last Council meeting, the Council determined that nearly every resolution would be placed in the consent agenda. Council members may still pull items from the consent agenda for discussion, but hope that this change will encourage the Council to move through the agenda more swiftly.
Not in the consent agenda are two zoning ordinance changes (Nixon Farms North and Nixon Farms South) as well as three site plan approvals (Nixon Farms North, Nixon Farms South, and 220 E. Ann Street). There will be public hearings on the zoning ordinances and on the site plans.
I’ve written frequently about Nixon Farms. Here’s a link to a document that outlines what is being considered at this Council meeting. There's such a lot of information. You should only have to read it once.
220 E. ANN STREET
If the Council approves this resolution the owner will convert an existing 1,928 square foot, 3 unit rental house into a 2,752 square foot, 5 unit rental house by finishing the basement into two (2) additional rental units and raising the northern second story roof approximately 8 feet to match the existing roof line and create occupiable floor area, and approval of a new front porch facing North First Street, and construction of a covered exterior stairwell at the southeast corner of the building leading to the two (2) additional basement rental units.
CLOSING PARKS TO ALLOW FOR A DEER CULL
I’ve written a lot about the deer and the proposals to manage the deer population over the past eight years – and those mentions have grown more frequent in the past two years, as the Council decided to consider doing something.
For more background and some FAQs, please read this update.
The Council approved a deer cull as part of an overall deer management program in August. Late on Wednesday, December 16th, the staff produced a list of public land they planned to close to public access from 4 pm to 7 am each day between January 1 and March 31. After quite a bit of public (and Council) push-back, this plan was altered to keep all parks open on weekends. For some members of Council, that’s just not enough.
On the agenda is a resolution to keep four additional parks and the Border to Border Trail open through the winter. I drafted this resolution; Council member Smith is co-sponsoring.
These recommended these four parks be kept open because each plays an important role in the park system. Olson Park contains the only dog park on the north side of town; residents with dogs ought to be able to take them to the dog park in the early morning (before school and work) and the late afternoon (after school and work). Bandemer and Argo parks don’t just form a major portion of the Border to Border Trail system, they also provide an opportunity for residents to walk around Argo pond – or bike, or ski. Furstenberg is one of the best places to see birds in the winter, and links directly to Gallup Park, which is not closing.
Keeping the Border to Border Trail open seems a clear need, as so many residents in and around Ann Arbor commute on their bikes, and alternative routes, especially during the winter, are risky at best. It’s a commitment we need to keep.
I’ve heard from a number of people who would like the park nearest them to remain open. I would like that, too. I hope the Council agrees to remove these four parks from the list. I also hope there is a further opportunity to reconsider whether all these nature areas needed to be included on the list.
There are always other items on the agenda. If any of these interest you or cause you concern, please let me know.
The City will make recommendations for the Library Lot after January 1.
The FRA will provide a recommendation for where a new train station might be located after January 1. The Capital Improvement plan does not assume that a new train station will be at Fuller; it did, however, reflect the staff’s oversight in not updating the name of projects (the Fuller Road Station reference is to the Ann Arbor Station proposal – which does not identify a location, pending the recommendation from the FRA.
CHRISTMAS IS ON DECEMBER 25TH.
NEW YEAR’S EVE IS ON THURSDAY, DECEMBER 31ST.
NEW YEAR’S DAY IS ON FRIDAY, JANUARY 1ST.
THE COUNCIL WILL RESUME MEETING ON MONDAY, JANUARY 4TH.
And while I'm ecumenical about many things (the Feast of the Prophet's Birthday falls on December 24 this year; Kwanzaa begins on December 26), I celebrate those northern European holidays with good cheer. And both German and English cookies.
ENJOY THIS TIME! The new year is right around the corner.
I gave myself a couple of books for Christmas. Surprise, yes?
Gratitude, by Oliver Sacks. I cannot think of a more appropriate book for the season – or for me.
Street Smart: The Rise of Cities and the Fall of Cars, by Samuel I. Schwartz and William Rosen. This is one of those books I’ve been wanting to read. Of course, I don’t always agree with everything I read, but I do always learn something.