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, the City Council agenda includes two public hearings for a large new development on Dhu Varren (DB-1, DB-2), rezoning for apartments on North Maple (C-2), and amendments to a contract (DC-3) and ordinance (C-1) for solid waste and recycling services. Council will also revisit a decision postponed at the last meeting: street closures for the Monroe Street Fair on April 1st (DC-2). In my “Additional Thoughts” section below, I’ve written at length about the significance of item C-3 – this ordinance repeal/amendment will eliminate the City’s Insurance Board and greatly reduce Council accountability and transparency to the community.
Alyshia Dyer for Sheriff
This Monday night (March 6th) at 6 p.m., all are invited to a virtual launch (via Zoom) for Alyshia Dyer, candidate for Washtenaw County Sheriff. From the invitation:
Our speakers for the evening will include Sheriff Susan Hutson, who is the first female Sheriff, and first Black female Sheriff in New Orleans. We will then hear from Ret. Lieutenant Diane Goldstein followed by Activist Trische’ Duckworth, Shawanna Vaughn, Ypsilanti City Council Ward 1 Representative Me’Chelle King, and Desiraé Simmons, Ypsilanti City Council Ward 3, who will be our emcee for the evening.
You can sign up to donate and attend here:
You can attend as a supporter (without a donation) by signing up here:
I am excited to support Alyshia for Sheriff. You can learn more about her candidacy at
Tree Limb Pickup
The City has made multiple communications about this event, but in case you missed it: on Monday, March 6th, the City will be picking up limbs and branches that fell in the recent ice storm (and even more recent snow storm!). Any limbs and branches must be on the curb before 7 a.m. More details about how to prepare/bundle your limbs for pickup can be found here:
Allmendinger Park playground meeting
City staff are holding a public meeting this week to discuss improvement plans for the playground at Allmendinger Park. The meeting will be held via Zoom on Tuesday, March 7th at 7:00 p.m.
Zoom link: https://a2gov.zoom.us/j/97434155005?pwd=WHY2Z0xuZ2NINUtjYjFIbXZ1by9hUT09
For more information: https://www.a2gov.org/departments/Parks-Recreation/administrative/Pages/Park-Planning.aspx
In Case You Missed It…
On my YouTube channel, you can find recordings of public meetings that are open to attend live or in-person but are not made available by the City to view later. This week, I uploaded a meeting of the Ordinance Revisions Committee of the City Planning Commission that was held remotely using the Zoom application, but a recording of this session was not made available by the City.
Please reach out if you have suggestions about public meetings that should be recorded. Subscribe to my YouTube channel if you would like to be alerted to new content as it gets added.
Ann Arbor City Planning Commission Ordinance Revisions Committee: February 28, 2023
This was a meeting of the Ann Arbor City Planning Commission Ordinance Revisions Committee held on February 28, 2023. A potential City ordinance amendment was discussed which “seeks to add the specification of ‘Event Space’ to the list of specified uses under the UDC and designate it as a permitted use under the Mixed-Use Zoning District – Office District.” This ordinance amendment was requested by Winston Chester, Commercial Real Estate Analyst at Oxford Companies, who called into public comment at the end of the meeting (timestamp 1h 23m). No votes were held at this meeting.
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 March 6, 2023 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. Public comment can be made either in person or remotely via phone/Zoom audio.
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”
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-1 (23-0376) Agenda Response Memo and eComments – March 6, 2023
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 (23-0322) Resolution to Appoint Kate Laramie to the Greenbelt Advisory Commission (7 Votes Required)
This nomination is from CM Radina, who serves on the Greenbelt Advisory Commission. This nomination is being presented at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting.
- Kate Laramie – Greenbelt Advisory Commission
Communications from the Mayor
MC-1 (23-0355) Nominations and Appointments for March 6, 2023
This mayoral nomination is being presented at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting.
- Rosanita Ratcliff – Commission on Disability Issues
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. I encourage you to look at this list and offer suggestions to me about anything you would like to see pulled for discussion.
CA-1 (23-0323) Resolution to Approve Street Closings for the Burns Park Run – Sunday, May 7, 2023 from 7:00 AM until 11:00 AM
CA-2 (23-0325) Resolution to Approve Downtown Street Closures for Restaurant and Retail Use
CA-3 (23-0201) Resolution to Approve a Cost Sharing Agreement with the Downtown Development Authority for the Purchase of an Electric Street Sweeper and to Appropriate ($129,222.50 DDA share of $258,445.00 total) (8 Votes Required)
CA-4 (23-0227) Resolution to Approve a Subrecipient Agreement with Creative Washtenaw to Design and Administer a Grant Program for Artists and Arts Organizations on Behalf of the City Using the ARPA SLFRF Funds Allocated for this Purpose ($500,000)
CA-5 (23-0143) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order with Trojan Technologies for Replacement Parts at the Wastewater Treatment Plant ($73,000.00)
CA-6 (23-0144) Resolution to Approve a General Services Agreement with Carbon Activated Corporation for Carbon Replacement in Odor Control Units at the Wastewater Treatment Plant, RFP 23-01 ($119,970.00)
CA-7 (23-0153) Resolution to Authorize the Purchase of Underground Inspection Equipment from Jack Doheny Companies, Inc. (Sourcewell – $151,486.00)
CA-8 (23-0167) Resolution to Approve an Agreement with the Downtown Development Authority for the South Main Street Watermain and Resurfacing Project ($119,000.00)
CA-9 (23-0109) Resolution to Authorize the Purchase of a Madvac EV Bike Lane Sweeper and Air-tow Trailer from Bell Equipment Company and to Appropriate $129,223.00 (Sourcewell – $258,445.00) (8 Votes Required)
CA-10 (23-0243) Resolution to Approve a One-Year Extension of the Contract with Washtenaw County for Police Dispatch Services ($928,930)
CA-11 (23-0301) Resolution to Authorize Settlement of Claim by Jason Kosnoski
CA-12 (23-0338) Resolution to Approve the Renewal of the City’s Contract with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) to Provide Administrative Claims Processing Services and Related Stop-Loss Insurance Coverage Through BCS Insurance Company for the City’s Health Care Plan on Behalf of Employees and Retirees and Their Dependents, and to Authorize the City Administrator to Execute the Necessary Documentation ($2,042,855)
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.
PH-1/B-1 (23-0039) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Zoning), Zoning of 67.6 Acres from TWP (Township District) and R1C (Single-Family Dwelling District) to R4A (Multiple-Family Dwelling District), 1680 Dhu Varren Road, 1710 Dhu Varren Road, 2670 Pontiac Trail, 2672 Pontiac Trail, 2678 Pontiac Trail, and 2682 Pontiac Trail (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 9 Yeas and 0 Nays) (ORD-23-04)
Multiple parcels adding up to 67.6 acres at 1680 Dhu Varren Road, 1710 Dhu Varren Road, 2670 Pontiac Trail, 2672 Pontiac Trail, 2678 Pontiac Trail, and 2682 Pontiac Trail will be rezoned from Township (TWP) and R1C (Single-Family Dwelling District) to R4A (Multiple-Family Dwelling District) as part of The Village of Ann Arbor development site plan. Planned use is consistent with the adjacent zoning, land uses, and comprehensive land use plan.
PH-2/DB-1 (23-0038) Resolution to Approve The Village of Ann Arbor Site Plan and Development Agreement at 1680 Dhu Varren Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 9 Yeas and 0 Nays)
Approval of this site plan will permit the construction of 484 dwelling units consisting of townhomes and stacked flats (apartment units) at 1680 Dhu Varren Road. See “The Village” rezoning in B-1.
PH-3/DB-2 (23-0031) Resolution to Approve the Village of Ann Arbor – 1680 Dhu Varren Road Redevelopment Brownfield Plan (BRC Recommendation: Approval – 4 Yeas and 0 Nays)
The development at “The Village” is eligible for funds from the Washtenaw County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority due to its location in an “environmentally distressed” area that was used as a landfill in the mid-20th century. The developer will be reimbursed for environmental-related activities totaling $26,369,633 and for non-environmental activities totaling $5,000,082.
After Council approval, this plan must be approved by the Washtenaw County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners.
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.
B-1 (23-0039) is the same as PH-1 above.
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.
C-1 (23-0047) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 2:1, 2:2, 2:5, and 2:9 of Chapter 26 (Solid Waste) of Title II (Solid Waste) of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor
Ordinance amendments will allow Waste Management to directly bill customers for commercial refuse hauling in the City of Ann Arbor. Currently, the City provides billing and customer service for commercial solid waste collection. These responsibilities will be delegated to Waste Management for commercial customers.
C-2 (23-0124) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Zoning), Rezoning of 3.13 Acres from TWP (Township) and R1B (Single-Family) to PUD (Planned Unit Development), North Maple Apartments Rezoning, 1815, 1855, and 1875 North Maple and 1921 Calvin Street (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 9 Yeas; 0 Nays)
Parcels at 1815, 1855, and 1875 North Maple and 1921 Calvin Street will be rezoned from TWP (Township) and R1B (Single-Family) to PUD (Planned Unit Development). A total of 3.13 acres will be rezoned to allow the “North Maple Road Apartments” development of 79 dwelling units in a four-story apartment building with a single-story clubhouse with 65 off-street parking places with EV infrastructure. There will be 12 affordable units (priced permanently at 60% or less of Area Median Income).
C-3 (23-0299) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 11 (Risk Fund) and Repeal Section 1:193 of Chapter 8 (Organization of Boards and Commissions) of Title I of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor
The Risk Fund ordinance will be repealed and replaced to eliminate the Insurance Board as the body of review for claims filed against the City. The Insurance Board – two Council Members and the City’s treasurer – reviews and awards claims against the City between $500 and $10,000. Meeting minutes for the Insurance Board are approved by City Council and Council specifically approves all claims over $10,000. The new ordinance eliminates the Insurance Board and empowers the City Administrator (or his designee) to decide all awards or denials of claims against the City, up to $75,000. Expenditures under $75,000 will no longer appear on public agendas of City Council but will be available to Council members “upon request.” See my “Additional Thoughts” section below.
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 (23-0267) Resolution to Appoint Brooks Curtis to the Environmental Commission
This nomination is from CM Akmon and CM Disch, who serve on the Environmental Commission. This nomination was presented at the previous meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting.
- Brooks Curtis – Environmental Commission
DC-2 (23-0236) Resolution to Approve the Closing of Monroe and Tappan Streets for the Annual Monroe Street Fair, Saturday, April 1, 2023
Street closures scheduled for April 1, 2023 will permitt the Monroe Street Fair to take place adjacent to the Hash Bash. For over twenty years, the Fair has traditionally been held in coordination with the Hash Bash, providing restrooms and space for attendees of the Hash Bash to congregate. Last year and this year, the U of M plans to host the Spring Game on the same day. The City’s Fire Chief and Interim Police Chief asked Council to reject the permit for the Monroe Street Fair, because the combination of all three events in close proximity were a safety concern, compromising emergency response time. This item was postponed from the 2/21 agenda.
DC-3 (23-0332) Resolution to Approve Contract Amendment Number 10 to the Service Contract with Recycle Ann Arbor for Municipal Resource Recovery Services for an Extension of One Three-year and Four-month Period with Annual Increases for Inflation every July 1st (limited to the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the previous contract year, or 6%, whichever is less), (estimated cost of $4,534,303.00 for three-years and four months of the Contract)
A service contract between the City and Recycle Ann Arbor will be extended for a three year and four month period. Three thousand carts (monthly tips) will be converted to dumpster service for an estimated fee reduction of $10,000 a month. Service will continue for 32, 64, or 96-gallon curb carts to customers such as multi-family homes of eleven units or greater, commercial establishments, mixed unit buildings, and civic units. The estimated total contract is $4,534,303.
DC-4 (23-0359) A Resolution Approving the Reallocation of FY23 New Human Services Partnership Funding Balance to Eviction Protection
An unspent balance of $305,000 in the New Human Services Partnership FY23 budget will be allocated to Ann Arbor Housing Commission to fund eviction prevention and housing stability support to families experiencing homelessness.
DC-5 (23-0393) A Resolution Requesting the City Administrator to Engage with the Michigan Legislature and Michigan Public Service Commission to Advance Energy Equity and Resilience
This resolution calls on the Michigan Legislature to take action toward addressing power outages, assisting rate payers and funding local resilience. It calls on the Michigan Public Service Commission to hold DTE accountable for improving the electrical systems and providing greater transparency in outage maps. The City Administrator is directed to work with the Council Policy Committee and DTE to facilitate timely installation of infrastructure. City Council asks DTE to attend meetings of the City’s Energy Commission.
DB-1 (23-0038) is the same as PH-2 above.
DB-2 (23-0031) is the same as PH-3 above.
I also posted this on my website:
Eliminating The Insurance Board Reduces Council Accountability
At the March 6, 2023 meeting, Council will consider first reading of an ordinance repeal and amendment that will drastically change how residents engage with the City when there is a problem and the City is potentially at fault.
C-3 (23-0299) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 11 (Risk Fund) and Repeal Section 1:193 of Chapter 8 (Organization of Boards and Commissions) of Title I of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor
Agenda item C-3 is a proposal to eliminate the City’s Insurance Board, a forum that exists to consider resident requests for compensation from the City. The new ordinance empowers the City Administrator or his designee to decide payment or denial of all claims up to $75,000.
The City is not perfect and mistakes happen. Sometimes these mistakes impact individual residents under very specific circumstances. For example, a City snow plow on your street might slip into your parked car. A City tree in a public park or right-of-way might fall on your property and cause damage. Through the City’s Insurance Board, residents can file a written claim and explain what happened, identify the cost, and request compensation. The Insurance Board currently includes three voting members: two members of City Council and the City treasurer.
The City’s website explains how claims are handled under the current ordinance:
- Claims of $500 or less are reviewed and may be approved or denied by the City’s Chief Financial Officer.
- Claims of $10,000 or less are reviewed and may be approved or denied by the City’s Insurance Board.
- Claims of more than $10,000 are reviewed and may be approved or denied by the City’s Insurance Board. If a claim is approved by the Insurance Board for an expenditure over $10,000, the Insurance Board makes a recommendation of approval of the expenditure to City Council but City Council must approve or deny the expenditure.
These policies strike a balance between claims where the stakes are low (under $500) and claims that have a more significant impact on residents ($500-$10,000). The process also includes the right to appeal: individuals can present the details of their claim in person (via ZOOM) to the Insurance Board. When City operations result in damages over $10,000, such claims will appear on a public agenda for review and approval by the whole of City Council.
I served on this Board for four years, so I understand how it functions and what these ordinance amendments mean for both Council and residents.
The two Council members who serve on the Insurance Board commit to attending meetings once a month to review claims and vote on whether or not compensation should be awarded. City staff (including attorneys) and representatives from the City insurance broker also attend. The agenda of each meeting includes:
- Review of claims filed by residents (or visitors to the City)
- Explanation from staff about each incident that prompted a claim
- Direct engagement with claimants, when someone appeals a prior decision
- Report from a City attorney about all pending and ongoing litigation against the City
The Insurance Board agenda is an important window into the work of City government. Council Members in attendance learn, for instance, just how frequently the City receives similar claims, such as sewer back-ups after a heavy rain storm. Staff discussion of each individual claim often includes details about City protocols and explanation of what safeguards are in place to prevent more claims in the future. Through the process of appeal, residents (or others impacted by City operations) can directly speak to the Insurance Board to argue that a claim should not have been denied. A City attorney offers two Council Members a complete report on (and opportunity to ask questions about) all potential liability and litigation against the City.
Our elected leaders should WANT to be informed about where and how City operations impact individual residents and potentially cause harm. Claims of up to $10,000 should be of interest to City Council, at least enough for two members to participate in a meeting once a month. It is appropriate for the whole of Council to consider claims exceeding $10,000.
This week’s agenda includes a settlement that illustrates just how much transparency will be lost if this ordinance is repealed and the Insurance Board is eliminated.
CA-11 (23-0301) Resolution to Authorize Settlement of Claim by Jason Kosnoski
In CA-11, Council will consider settlement of a claim against the City in the amount of $15,000. The claimant alleges personal injury and damages that occurred “from stepping in a hole while running on Brooks Street near Sunset in the City of Ann Arbor.”
Just seven months ago, the City settled another claim for injuries from a pothole, coincidentally in the same neighborhood. Last August, City Council approved a settlement of $24,500 for injuries and damages “from stepping in a hole while walking on Sunset Road.”
Ryan Stanton from MLive wrote about that settlement, You can read his report here:
Both of these settlements appeared on a public agenda because the current ordinance requires it: any claim over $10,000 must be approved by City Council. Additionally, the current ordinance requires that all spending from the Insurance Board – even payment of claims less than $10,000 – be reported to Council, through meeting minutes:
Each expenditure shall be reported to City Council as part of the official minutes of the Board of Insurance Administration.
The repeal/amendment in C-3 removes this requirement, so claims from (and settlements with) residents will not appear on a public agenda of City Council unless they exceed $75,000. The new ordinance allows that information about these expenditures will be available to Council “upon request.”
WHY THIS MATTERS
In questions to the agenda, the proposed change is explained by staff as increasing “efficiency and expediency of the claims review and approval process” because a new process would “not require the extra layer of staff preparation and City Council review associated with placing such items on a City Council agenda for approval.” That efficiency and expediency comes at a cost: less accountability to the community.
The current ordinance recognizes that elected leaders should be directly involved in monitoring all claims against the City. The Insurance Board does not only add an extra layer of “staff preparation,” it also adds an extra layer of accountability to residents. When meeting minutes and claims exceeding $10,000 appear on City Council agendas, claimants can challenge their elected representatives and ask for additional consideration. MLive reported on this exact scenario in 2020:
The new ordinance in C-3 defines an internal, staff-only process for review and payment of claims against the City. Awards and settlements would be treated like any other City expenditure: only claims exceeding $75,000 will appear on a public agenda for Council approval.
These payments should not be treated like any other City expense, because they are fundamentally very different.
City expenditures of $75,000 are relatively small in the context of a City budget with annual spending of over $500 million. Individual claims against the City cannot be compared to other City expenses — the dollar amounts of these claims most directly impact the budgets of individual households. I don’t know any Ann Arbor household that would consider $75,000 (or even $10,000) a relatively small expense.
Where the City might be at fault for damages, residents expect meaningful consideration of a claim. The Insurance Board is where that happens, with active participation from two Council Members and transparency to the whole of Council and our community. City Council should care about the claims filed by residents. These amounts of money matter to individual residents and they should matter to our elected representatives.
Claims against the City often indicate where policies should change or priorities need to be adjusted; elected policymakers are appropriately a part of this process. Information about these claims should be included on public agendas – just as it is now – through both meeting minutes and specific Council approval of payments over $10,000. Our community has a right to know how often these claims happen and how much is spent to settle them.
In the last week, I talked to two former Council Members who, like me, served on the City’s Insurance Board. They shared my alarm at delegating these responsibilities entirely to staff and removing any Council involvement. The Insurance Board is where individuals demand accountability for specific government action (or inaction). Council engagement in this process matters.
This is, unfortunately, not the first time that Council has considered measures to reduce their own responsibilities and workload. It appears that C-3 comes from City staff, but it is wholly consistent with past Council efforts to reduce transparency and accountability to residents. I wrote about this problem in 2021:
This week, a new Council must consider their own willingness to serve and actually do the job to which they were elected.
Thank you for taking the time to be informed about our local government!