Welcome to my Ann Arbor City Council newsletter, where you can connect with primary sources to understand the work of your local government. My goal is to provide clear explanations of all the issues your elected representatives will be discussing at their next meeting and alert you to local policy and decisions that have been assigned to unelected Mayoral appointees.
This week, Ann Arbor City Council considers organization tasks for a new roster of members. A new Council will be appointed to boards, commissions and committees and also approve Council Rules. Also on this agenda: a motion to suspend Council Rules for reconsideration of a feasibility study. Other items on this agenda include a resolution for adjustments to the TC1 District on Stadium/Maple and the purchase of an ambulance.
Ann Arbor Municipal Airport Expansion Public Meetings
I have several updates about potential plans for Ann Arbor Municipal Airport expansion, including two public meetings scheduled for December 2022.
At their November 21, 2022 meeting, Ann Arbor City Council unanimously approved a new 20-year lease (with a 10 year option to renew) with Beacon Aviation for the aviation center at the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport. Additionally, Beacon Aviation requested and was given the right of first refusal to expand their business on vacant land to the west of the Airport.
On November 10, 2022, an updated draft Environmental Assessment (EA) of the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport was released. This EA report is required preparation for a City plan to extend the primary runway at the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport. The runway is currently 3505 feet long and with extension would become a 4225 foot runway, adding 720 feet. This extended runway would attract more, larger and heavier jets to the airport. Note that this expansion is referred to on the City’s website as a “Runway Safety Extension Project”.
MDOT-AERO is hosting a public hearing on Tuesday, December 13, 2022 from 5:30 to 8:00 PM
Local residents are also meeting to discuss airport expansion concerns and possible next steps on Wednesday, December 14, 2022 at 6:30PM.
I have more details about these meetings, and background about the airport expansion here:
Ashley Mews PUD Public Meeting
The owners of Ashley Mews (414 S Main Street, Ann Arbor) have requested amendments to PUD Supplemental Regulations in order to expand permitted uses on the property. Owners are interested in adding short-term-rental and hotel use, which is not currently permitted in the PUD. A public meeting for resident participation is part of the City process of considering this request. Anyone interested can attend.
This will be a Zoom meeting held on Thursday December 8, 2022 at 7:00 PM.
I have more details about this meeting, including the Zoom link and images of the postcard sent to local residents, here:
Ann Arbor City Council Meeting Agenda
Below is my summary of issues on the City Council Agenda this week, with links to more information about each of them. If you have comments about any of these issues, you can email all of Council at CityCouncil@a2gov.org
Ann Arbor City Council Meeting
Monday December 5, 2022 7:00PM
Ann Arbor City Hall (2nd Floor)
301 E Huron St, Ann Arbor 48104
The full agenda (including a link to the latest published PDF agenda, and instructions for dialing into the meeting) is on the A2Gov Legistar website:
City Council meetings are broadcast live by CTN on Comcast (channel 16) and AT&T (channel 99) and online at a2gov.org/watchCTN
Meetings are also streamed live on the CTN YouTube channel:
How to reserve public comment
People that wish to comment at a City Council meeting must sign up with the City Clerk’s office in advance. Speakers are allotted 3 minutes, with the first 15 speakers allowed to speak in a 45 minute session near the beginning of the meeting. Remaining speakers will speak at the end of the Council meeting.
To sign up for public comment, please go to or call the City Clerk’s Office at 734-794-6140 on the day of the meeting between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM. At 1:00 PM, all speakers that have signed up are randomly ordered in “priority groups”. After 1:00 PM, speaking times are granted on a first-come, first-served basis. No new speakers will be added to the list after 5:00 PM. For more information, visit the City Clerk’s webpage about electronic meetings, section “City Council Public Commentary Time”
Public comment can be made in person on the Second floor of City Hall (301 E. Huron) – or by phone, calling the number at the top of the Legistar agenda link.
Questions to the Agenda
In preparation for a Council meeting, Council members can ask questions of staff about scheduled agenda items. Questions must be submitted by noon on the Wednesday before a Council Meeting, and answers are returned the next day (Thursday) by 5pm.
AC-2 (22-1969) Agenda Response Memo and eComments – December 5, 2022
This agenda item has a PDF attachment with all questions raised by Council Members, and the answers provided by staff.
Communications from Council
CC-1 (22-1905) Resolution to Appoint Anya Dale and Maisie Weyhing to the Environmental Commission (7 Votes Required)
These nominations are brought by CM Disch, who sits on the Environmental Commission. These nominations will be voted on at the next Council meeting. Seven votes are required because one of the nominees “is not a registered elector of the City of Ann Arbor”
- Anya Dale – Environmental Commission
- Maisie Weyhing – Environmental Commission
Communications from the Mayor
MC-1 (22-1783) Nominations and Appointments for December 5, 2022
These mayoral nominations are being presented at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting.
- Jessica Letaw – Downtown Development Authority
- Thressa Nichols – Downtown Development Authority
- Mark Foster – Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees
- Jordan Else – Renters Commission (Landlord Non-voting)
- Heidi Poscher – Renters Commission (Landlord Non-voting)
- Geoffrey Lowes – Renters Commission
MC-2 (22-1784) Resolution to appoint Julie Lynch to the Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees (7 votes required)
This mayoral nomination is being presented at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting. Because the nominee is not a registered elector of the City of Ann Arbor, seven votes are required.
- Julie Lynch – Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees
Note: MC-3 was added to the agenda on Monday December 5th
MC-3 (22-1986) Resolution to Remove Kristen Cato from the Renters Commission and Appoint Jaymie Tibbits
From the resolution: “Kristen Cato is currently appointed to the Renters Commission through May 31, 2024, however she has not attended since July, 2022. This resolution removes Kristen Cato and appoints Jaymie Tibbits to the Renters Commission.”
Below is the list of items included on the Consent Agenda. If no one on Council specifically requests that an item be pulled for discussion, the whole of this list will be approved in a single vote.
CA-1 (22-1824) Resolution to Approve a Memorandum of Understanding Between the City of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County for the Bandemer-Barton Trail and Underpass Project
CA-2 (22-1912) Resolution to Approve a Spark Grant Application to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Grants Management for Improvements at the Buhr Park Ice Arena
CA-3 (22-1775) Resolution to Approve Change Order No. 1 with Doan Construction Co. for the 2022 Annual Sidewalk and Ramp Repair Project ($200,678.81, Total Contract Amount $772,641.94; ITB 4677)
CA-4 (22-1788) Resolution to Approve a Construction Contract with Insituform Technologies USA, LLC for the High Level Trunkline Sanitary Sewer Rehabilitation Phase 2 Project ($4,242,055.60)
CA-5 (22-1903) Resolution to Approve the Amendment and Renewal of the City’s Contract with EyeMed Vision Care LLC to Provide Vision Benefit Coverage to City Employees and their Eligible Dependents, and to Authorize the City Administrator to Execute the Necessary Documentation ($340,000.00 for a forty-eight (48) month policy period, through 12/31/2026)
CA-6 (22-1815) Resolution to Accept Sanitary and Water Easements and Approve an Easement Agreement at Maple Village Condominium (8 Votes Required)
CA-7 (22-1909) Resolution to Approve the Reallocation of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funds
This is an amendment to the spending plan for federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). In April 2022, Council approved a spending plan for ARPA funds that included $500,000 for the Community and Law Enforcement Data Platform. As part of public engagement, the City shared a video explaining it: https://youtu.be/-SY0akTn22M
The proposed program was also discussed by City staff in an online discussion here: https://youtu.be/0LO5CvJ7YD4
This resolution would re-direct $500,000 that was previously allocated to a Community and Law Enforcement Data Platform. If approved, $300,000 will fund an ambulance and related equipment and the remaining $200,000 will be spent on purposes yet to be determined to provide services downtown.
See also DS-1 below.
CA-8 (22-1906) Resolution to Renew the Professional Services Agreement with Huron Valley Ambulance, Inc. for the Provision of a Basic Life Support Ambulance
Anyone wanting to comment on these issues may speak for 3 minutes, without having specifically reserved time. Issues subject to public hearing will also be up for a vote by Council later in the meeting.
There are no public hearings on the Agenda
Ordinances – Second Reading
In order to amend the city code, Council must vote to approve the change, via ordinance, at two Council meetings. The following proposed ordinances were approved at a previous Council meeting, and are also subject to a public hearing as listed above.
There are no ordinance first readings on the Agenda
Ordinances – First Reading
In order to amend the city code, Council must vote to approve the change, via ordinance, at two Council meetings. The following proposed ordinances are being introduced for “first reading”. If approved, the ordinance will be voted on at a subsequent Council meeting (“second reading”), where it will also be subject to a public hearing.
There are no ordinance first readings on the Agenda
Motions and Resolutions
The following agenda items are motions and resolutions, which are approved or rejected in a single meeting. Agenda items marked “DC” are proposed by Council members, items marked “DB” are proposed by City boards and commissions, items marked “DS” are proposed by City staff.
DC-1 (22-1797) Resolution to Reappoint Sarah Mason as Representative and Molly Maciejewski as Alternate to the Washtenaw Regional Resource Management Authority (7 Votes Required)
These mayoral nominations were presented at the previous meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting. As per the resolution, “City Council has previously appointed the City’s Resource Recovery Manager as its representative, with the Public Works Manager as an alternate. Staff recommends continuing these appointments.” Because Molly Maciejewski is not a registered elector of the City of Ann Arbor, seven votes are required.
- Sarah Mason – City of Ann Arbor Resource Recovery Manager (Representative)
- Molly Maciejewski – City of Ann Arbor Public Works Manager (Alternate)
DC-2 (22-1925) Resolution to Adopt City Council Rules Following the 2022 General Election
A new Council will approve the Rules and procedures that govern the body. At the 11/10/22 meeting, an outgoing Council amended these Rules to require pre-registration (before 5 p.m.) for all public comments at Council meetings, which eliminated the traditional open, unreserved public comment at the end of meetings. Five new Council Members will vote to affirm that recent change plus one new amendment: in-person mask requirements for Council meetings will follow CDC guidance, consistent with local transmission rates.
DC-3 (22-1940) Resolution to Approve 2023 Council Committee Appointments
Below are the new Council appointments to Boards, Commissions, and Council committees:
- Airport Advisory Committee – Chris Watson, Erica Briggs
- Ann Arbor Public Schools Transportation Safety Committee – Linh Song
- Ann Arbor Summer Festival Liaison – Christopher Taylor
- Audit Committee (Mayoral appointments) – Erica Briggs, Jenn Cornell, Lisa Disch, Ayesha Ghazi Edwin, Linh Song
- Board of Insurance Administration – Jenn Cornell, Linh Song
- Brownfield Plan Review Committee – Jenn Cornell, Jen Eyer, Ayesha Ghazi Edwin, Cynthia Harrison
- Budget and Labor Committee (Mayoral appointments) – Christopher Taylor, Dharma Akmon, Erica Briggs, Jen Eyer, Travis Radina
- City/County Community Corrections Advisory Board – Cynthia Harrison
- City/Schools Committee – Jenn Cornell, Ayesha Ghazi Edwin
- Commission on Disability Issues – Ayesha Ghazi Edwin
- Community Events Funds Committee (Mayoral appointments) – Lisa Disch, Travis Radina
- Council Administration Committee (Mayoral appointments) – Christopher Taylor, Erica Briggs, Jen Eyer, Travis Radina, Chris Watson
- Council of the Commons – Erica Briggs, Jenn Cornell
- Council Policy Agenda Committee (Mayoral appointments) – Jen Eyer, Cynthia Harrison, Travis Radina, Linh Song, Chris Watson
- DDA Partnerships Committee – Jen Eyer, Jenn Cornell
- Downtown Development Authority (DDA) – Milton Dohoney Jr., City Administrator
- Economic Development Corporation (EDC) – Jenn Cornell (Nonvoting), Jen Eyer (Nonvoting)
- Energy Commission – Erica Briggs, Travis Radina
- Environmental Commission (City Council appointment) – Dharma Akmon, Lisa Disch
- Greenbelt Advisory Commission (City Council appointment) – Travis Radina
- Housing Commission Liaison – Erica Briggs
- Housing, & Human Services Advisory Board – Linh Song, Chris Watson
- Human Rights Commission – Ayesha Ghazi Edwin, Linh Song
- Huron River Watershed Council Liaison – Lisa Disch
- Human Services Partnership Leadership Team – Milton Dohoney Jr., City Administrator, Erica Briggs, Cynthia Harrison, Linh Song, Chris Watson
- Independent Community Police Oversight Commission – Cynthia Harrison, Linh Song
- Liquor License Review Committee – Dharma Akmon, Lisa Disch, Travis Radina, Chris Watson
- LDFA (City Council appointment) – Jenn Cornell
- Michigan Theater Foundation Board Liaison – Christopher Taylor, Dharma Akmon
- Park Advisory Commission – Travis Radina, Chris Watson
- Planning Commission – Lisa Disch
- Public Art Commission – Cynthia Harrison
- Recreation Advisory Commission – Jen Eyer, Lisa Disch
- Renters Commission – Cynthia Harrison, Travis Radina
- SEMCOG – Erica Briggs (delegate), Dharma Akmon (alternate)
- Student Advisory Council – Ayesha Ghazi Edwin
- Transportation Commission – Dharma Akmon
- Urban County Executive Committee – Chris Watson, Ayesha Ghazi Edwin (alternate)
- Washtenaw Area Transportation Study (WATS) – Erica Briggs, Dharma Akmon (alternate)
DC-4 (22-1950) Resolution to Approve 2023 Council Calendar
As is traditional, this resolution sets the 2023 calendar for Council meetings. For more on this, see my “Additional Thoughts” section below.
DC-5 (22-1960) Resolution to Direct Planning Commission Following Stadium/Maple Rezoning toTC-1
This resolution is in response to concerns raised about the TC-1 zoning district at Stadium/Maple: the viability of ongoing commercial businesses and narrow rights of way on Stadium Boulevard. It is proposed that some commercial outlets be permitted as a special exception use within the TC-1 district. Further, the minimal setback requirements in the TC-1 district at Stadium are problematic, given the limited distance between curbs and lot lines (~7 feet). Mayoral appointees on the Planning Commission are directed to evaluate and recommend amendments to the TC-1 zoning district in order to incorporate limited automobile-related uses (except for drive-throughs and gas stations) and address the issue of narrow existing rights of way.
DC-6 (22-1970) Motion to Suspend Council Rule 13 in Order to Reconsider the Resolution to Approve a Professional Services Agreement with Sam Schwartz Consulting, LLC (RFP 22-57; $134,271.00) and Appropriate Funds for the State Trunkline Jurisdiction Transfer Study ($160,000.00)
Council Member Briggs brings a motion to suspend two long standing Council rules, in order to bring an issue back for reconsideration. Council rules allow that an issue previously decided can be brought back for reconsideration at the following meeting. A motion for reconsideration must come from a Council member who voted on the prevailing side in the original decision. Neither of these conditions would be met in bringing back a budget amendment that was defeated at the September 19, 2022 Council Meeting.
If Council votes to suspend the rules, it will then vote on a budget amendment for $134,000 to fund a consultant. The consultant will study the feasibility of the City taking control of major corridors at North Main, Washtenaw, Huron, and Jackson. These corridors are currently considered “state trunklines” and the Michigan Department of Transportation is wholly responsible for their maintenance and repair. (The state reimburses the City for minor repairs, e.g. filling potholes.)
When this budget amendment was considered in September, staff explained that City control of these corridors meant the City would take complete responsibility for the cost of maintenance and repair (with some additional funds from Act 51 and other state funds). A City Staff memo from January 2022 explains more about the feasibility study:
DS-1 (22-1908) Resolution to Authorize the Purchase of a 2023 Road Rescue Ultramedic III Ambulance from Emergency Vehicles Plus Inc. (HGACBuy Cooperative Purchasing Agreement – $295,085.00)
This resolution authorizes the purchase of a new 2023 Road Rescue Ultramedic III Ambulance for $295,085 to support the Ann Arbor Fire Department’s ongoing work as a basic life support transport agency. Funding will come from a reallocation of federal money received through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). ARPA funding ($500,000) previously allocated to a Community and Law Enforcement Data Platform is re-directed to fund this ambulance and undetermined services Downtown. See agenda item CA-7 in the Consent Agenda above.
I also published this on my website:
New Ann Arbor City Council Removes Work Sessions From Calendar
This week’s agenda includes a fairly routine item – setting of the Council Calendar (DC-4) – that marks a departure from past practice. Currently, only one member of Ann Arbor City Council (Mayor Taylor) has more than two years of experience, so it is possible that many elected representatives may not fully grasp the significance of this agenda item.
SCHEDULING THE WORK OF COUNCIL
The Council calendar in DC-4 sets the 2023 schedule for both regular Council meetings/sessions and additional meetings called Work Sessions. Regular meetings happen twice a month, when elected leaders vote on specific items and make decisions. Work sessions are public meetings in which elected representatives meet to receive and exchange information among each other and from City staff. No votes are taken in these public meetings; no policy, spending, or legislative decisions happen in a Work Session.
Historically, work sessions have been open meetings that allow the public to see their elected leaders hear and share ideas. In years past, every Council calendar has included multiple work sessions in anticipation of important issues that come up and require additional consideration. E.g. In years past, the annual budget process has previously included multiple Work Sessions leading up to final approval of the budget.
THEN AND NOW
Every previous calendar has assigned a significant amount of time to both regular meetings and work sessions, though the amount of time spent in work sessions can look very different from year to year. Below, see the number of Work sessions included in the annual calendar, plus the number of Work sessions that actually took place.
2019 Calendar: 10 work sessions scheduled / 15 work sessions held
Ten Work Sessions included staff presentations on the annual budget, solid waste, water quality, and capital asset management. Five additional Work Sessions allowed for open public discussion of the Gelman plume contamination, affordable housing, the Downtown Development authority, marijuana regulation, and candidates for Police Chief.
2020 Calendar: 11 work sessions scheduled / 8 work sessions held
Eight work sessions included staff presentations on the annual budget, development of affordable housing on City-owned property, the A2Zero plan, a financial recovery plan, and non motorized transit.
Note: One work session was cancelled due to the Presidential Primary and two work sessions were cancelled in March, due to COVID-19 isolation protocols.
2021 Calendar: 11 work sessions scheduled / 13 work sessions held
Eleven work sessions included staff presentations on the annual budget, diversion and expungement programs, the Downtown Development Authority, and water system facilities. Two additional work sessions allowed for public discussion of City pavement conditions and the development of affordable housing on City-owned properties.
2022 Calendar: 11 work sessions scheduled / 0 work sessions held
All Budget and general work sessions for 2022 were cancelled. The City/DDA joint meeting was cancelled. The City planning session originally scheduled for December 2022 was rescheduled to January 2023.
The proposed 2023 Council Calendar includes only three Work Sessions:
January 30 — 2023 planning session (rescheduled from December 2022)
October 10 — Joint planning session with the DDA
December 11 — 2024 planning session
This is the first year that general Work Sessions – and Budget Work Sessions, in particular – have been wholly eliminated from the Council calendar of public meetings.
“REGULAR MEETING” VERSUS “WORK SESSION”
The significance of this shift – dispensing with Work Sessions – is more notable due to recent changes in Council Rules. Last month, Council eliminated open, unreserved public comments at the end of regular Council meetings. All public comments now require pre-reservation with City staff (before 5 p.m.) and no public comments can happen at the end of a regular meeting unless and until the numbers of pre-reserved public commenters exceeds fifteen.
Additional meetings of Council – non-regular meetings – treat public comments differently. E.g. In addition to regular meetings, Council may call Special Sessions that are not included in the annual calendar. According to Council Rules, the agenda of any Special Session includes public comment at the end, rather than the beginning. Likewise, the agenda of any Work Session includes public comment at the end, instead of the beginning; however, public comments at Work Sessions must begin “no later than 8:45 p.m.”
The three Work Sessions scheduled for January, October, and December of 2023 are now the only certain, scheduled opportunity for anyone to offer public comment at the end of (and in immediate response to) what they observe in a Council meeting.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Pre-pandemic, Council Members regularly attended multiple work sessions to hear presentations from City staff and ask questions. These public meetings were opportunities for community members to hear directly from City staff at the same time as Council Members, and offer public comment at the end. At these work sessions the public could observe the attendance, participation, and engagement of all Council Members in learning about and understanding the annual budget and other City issues.
In March 2020 – at the very beginning of COVID lockdowns – two budget work sessions were cancelled (and substituted with staff videos) because ZOOM meetings were not yet in place. In 2021, Budget Work sessions happened in public meetings via ZOOM. In 2022, the approved Council Calendar included work sessions, none of which actually took place. Instead, the Council Administration committee approved a plan for pre-recorded staff produced videos that Council could opt to view at their convenience. This year, a new Council has not scheduled any Work Sessions to discuss the Budget or any other important topics.
Since 2020, a majority of Council has consistently worked to reduce their own obligations as elected representatives. A majority led by Mayor Taylor has delegated policymaking to unelected Mayoral appointees, crafted rules to limit debate and shorten Council meetings, and wholly eliminated unreserved public comment in response to whatever debate does (or doesn’t) occur in a short Council meeting. This week, the Council Calendar takes one more remarkable step: eliminating a whole category of meetings where the public can observe the work of Council and respond to it.
Thank you for taking the time to be informed about our local government!