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’s Council agenda is extremely short, with just one item on the regular agenda.
POWER OUTAGE TOWN HALL
This week, our U.S. Congressional Representative Debbie Dingell is hosting an event to discuss resident concerns about the reliability of DTE service. The event will include a presentation from Michigan Public Service Commission Chair Dan Scripps.
Power Outage Town Hall
Thursday, October 5th 6:00 PM
Towsley Auditorium – WCC Morris Lawrence Building
4800 E. Huron River Drive
PUBLIC POWER UPDATE
Last week, City Council met for a work session on “Renewable Energy Options Analysis.” MLive reported on it here:
You can view presentation slides and the full report here:
I encourage everyone who might be interested in this issue to sign up for updates from Ann Arbor for Public Power:
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED RESORTS
The biggest news announced this week was the possible sale of a City owned property that was previously designated for development of affordable housing. I wrote more about that below in my “Additional Thoughts” section.
ANN ARBOR DEMOCRACY
This week, I launched a new project: Ann Arbor Democracy. I am interviewing people who have experience to share as former elected leaders, candidates, activists, and others. These conversations center on community: how our community has previously participated in and engaged with our local government.
My first interview is with Jerry DeGrieck, who famously served on Ann Arbor City Council from 1972 to 1974 as a member of the Human Rights Party. You can watch Part 1 of that conversation here:
In Case You Missed It…
On my YouTube channel, you can find recordings of public meetings that are open to attend live (online or in-person) but are not made available by the City to view later. 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.
Council Policy Agenda Committee: September 25, 2023
This is a recording I made of a Zoom audio meeting held on Monday, September 25, 2023 by the Ann Arbor Council Policy Agenda Committee. Video was not made available.
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 October 2, 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 4:00 PM, all speakers that have signed up are randomly ordered in “priority groups”. After 4:00 PM, speakers are added to the end of the applicable priority group in the order received. 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-2 (23-1642) Agenda Response Memo and eComments – October 2, 2023
This agenda item has a PDF attachment with all questions raised by Council Members, and the answers provided by staff.
No questions were asked by Council Members this week
Communications from Council
CC-1 (23-1627) Resolution to Appoint Jess Francis to the Independent Community Police Oversight Commission
This appointment is from CM Ghazi Edwin (who serves on the Human Rights Commission), CM Harrison (who serves on the Independent Community Police Oversight Commission) and CM Song (who serves on both the Human Rights Commission and Independent Community Police Oversight Commission). This is being presented at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting.
- Jess Francis – Independent Community Police Oversight Commission
Communications from the Mayor
MC-1 (23-1611) Nominations and Appointments for October 2, 2023
These appointments from the Mayor are being presented at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting.
- Chip Smith – Historic District Commission
- Steve Kaplan – Historic District Commission
- Faith Redwine-Otieno – Housing and Human Services Advisory Board
- Angela Jackson – Downtown Development Authority
- Elena Chambers – Council on Disability Issues
MC-2 (23-1622) Resolution to Appoint Non-resident Electors to Council on Disability Issues and Airport Advisory Committee (7 Votes Required)
These appointments from the Mayor are being presented at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting. Seven votes are required because the nominees are not registered electors of the City of Ann Arbor.
- Robert Packard – Council on Disability Issues
- Alexander Arts – Airport Advisory Committee
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 (23-1608) Resolution to Approve a Street Closure of Washington Street between Fletcher and Thayer Streets for the Dance Marathon at the University of Michigan’s 2023 Spook-a-Thon on Saturday, October 28, 2023 from 12:00 Noon until 6:00 PM
CA-2 (23-1589) Resolution to Approve Amendment Number 1 to the Professional Services Agreement with ROWE Professional Services Company for Engineering Consulting Services (RFP #20-26) ($331,000) (Total Contract $781,000)
CA-3 (23-1607) Resolution to Approve Amendment No. 2 to the Professional Services Agreement with Wade Trim Associates, Inc. for Gallup Park Vehicle and Pedestrian Bridge Design (RFP No. 22-51) and Appropriate Funding ($537,593.52, Total Contract $878,720.60) (8 Votes Required)
CA-4 (23-1493) Resolution to Approve a Construction Contract with Anlaan Corporation for the Gallup Park Vehicle and Pedestrian Bridge Project and Appropriate Funding ($4,184,015.40) (8 Votes Required)
CA-5 (23-1531) Resolution to Approve Change Order No. 1 and Ratify Emergency Purchase Order with Z Contractors, Inc. for the 2190 South State Street Retaining Wall Replacement Project, RFP 23-11; ($29,697.48 Increase, Total Contract Amount $209,443.53)
CA-6 (23-1450) Resolution to Approve a Professional Services Agreement with Orchard, Hiltz & McCliment, Inc. for Engineering Design Services for the Pittsfield Village Improvements Project ($1,140,971.00) (RFP 23-34)
CA-7 (23-1343) Resolution No. 1 – Prepare Plans and Specifications for the Stone School Road – Special Assessment (District #64)
CA-8 (23-1285) Resolution to Approve a General Services Agreement with Premier Power Maintenance Corporation (Premier Power) for Electrical Preventive Maintenance at the Wastewater Treatment Plant, RFP No. 23-33 ($111,778.40)
CA-9 (23-1397) Resolution Authorizing Water and Sanitary Sewer Capital Recovery Charges for 2118 Victoria Circle
CA-10 (23-1398) Resolution Authorizing Water and Sanitary Sewer Capital Recovery Charges for 2318 Newport Road
CA-11 (23-1560) Resolution to Assess Certain Delinquent Municipal Utility Charges as a Tax and Ordering Collection Thereof
CA-12 (23-1564) Resolution Levying Certain Delinquent Municipal Solid Waste, Board Up, Clean Up, Vacant Property Inspection Fees, Housing Inspection Fees, False Alarm Fees, and Fire Inspection Fees as Special Assessments and Ordering Collection Thereof
CA-13 (23-1511) Resolution to Transfer Management Responsibilities for City of Ann Arbor’s 401(a) Executive Plan to the City of Ann Arbor Employees Retirement System
CA-14 (23-1480) Resolution to Appropriate and Increase the FY 24 Planning Department General Fund Budget by $699,110.00 (8 Votes Required)
CA-15 (23-1590) Resolution to Authorize Acquisition of Easements at 402 E. Stadium Blvd for the South Main Street Sidewalk Gap Elimination Project (8 Votes Required)
CA-16 (23-1605) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of AB A16S Shallow Water Aluminum Rigid Inflatable Boat from First Responder Boats LLC for $53,560
CA-17 (23-1414) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of One Mini Rear Load Refuse Truck on a Ford F-550 chassis from Lunghamer Ford and to Appropriate Funding from the Solid Waste Fund Balance (State of Michigan – $155,392.00) (8 Votes Required)
CA-18 (23-1500) Resolution to Authorize the Purchase of Two Automated Side Load Refuse Trucks on Autocar Chassis’ from Fredrickson Supply (Sourcewell – $846,406.00)
CA-19 (23-1492) Resolution to Authorize the Purchase of Vehicles from Lunghamer Ford and to Appropriate Funding from the General Fund Balance, Sewage Disposal System Fund Balance, Water Supply System Fund Balance, Major Street Fund Balance, Stormwater Fund Balance, Project Management Fund Balance, (State of Michigan MIDeal – $853,825.00) (8 Votes Required)
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 second 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 (23-1651) Resolution to Encourage DTE to Develop a Process for Burying Power Lines, Investing in Energy Infrastructure, and Improving Grid Reliability and Resilience
The City Administrator is directed to “strongly encourage” DTE to upgrade infrastructure and bury power lines.
I also published this on my website:
Ann Arbor FOR SALE: Sports Illustrated Resorts
This week, national news outlets were the first to report that a City-owned parking lot at South Ashley (also known as the Klines lot) could potentially be sold to Sports Illustrated Resorts for the development of a new hotel and conference center. The Klines lot was previously earmarked and assessed for the development of affordable housing. If a deal with Sports Illustrated Resorts moves forward, it will have skipped at least three steps of public consideration and transparency.
(Clarification added 10/2/2023: While Sports Illustrated was the first to report that Sports Illustrated Resorts was considering an Ann Arbor location, MLive/The Ann Arbor News was the first to report that the talks involved the city-owned Kline Lot.)
RESCIND & REVERSE PAST POLICY
A previous Council – including Mayor Taylor – voted repeatedly in support of developing specific City-owned properties with affordable housing. In April 2019, I co-sponsored a resolution that introduced the idea of using City-owned properties for the development of affordable housing.
Resolution Directing the City Administrator to Collaborate with the Ann Arbor Housing Commission to Provide Coordinated Analysis on the Feasibility of City-Owned Properties as Potential Locations for Affordable Housing
The resolution included explanation of the purpose:
“City Council has adopted the strategic goal of establishing Ann Arbor as a safe, warm and welcoming community. Consistent with that goal, the ability to provide affordable housing options is essential to that goal. The redevelopment of City-owned parcels of land that lie in the urban core, along transit corridors, and in the vicinities of employment centers can serve as a means to reduce the costs.”
At the time, this strategic goal was also included in the Council-approved budget:
“Staff support for this effort is already included in the FY19 and FY20 budgets. An additional $100,000 is identified in the Affordable Housing allocation proposed in the FY20 budget.”
In November 2019, Council approved a resolution to move forward with community engagement on development options at the Klines lot.
Resolution to Direct City Staff to Conduct Community Engagement Around Development Options for Ashley/William and First/William Surface Parking Lots to Support Affordable Housing in the City
From the resolution:
“The Kline’s lot D1 zoning, and affordable housing density bonus, would allow for 400-600+ housing units and other uses such as first floor retail or office space.”
In November 2019, Council received the first report on the financial feasibility of developing affordable housing on City-owned properties.
Analysis of the Financial Feasibility of Developing Under-Utilized City-Owned Properties as Affordable Housing
That report showed the Kline’s lot as “high” priority.
That analysis was updated and presented to Council in July 2020, with the Klines lot continuing to rank as “high” priority compared to other locations.
Analysis of the Financial Feasibility of Developing Affordable Housing on Under-utilized City-owned Property
Later that same month (July 2020), I co-sponsored a ballot initiative for an affordable housing millage that was approved unanimously by City Council.
Resolution to Order Election and to Determine Ballot Question for Charter Amendment for the 2021 Affordable Housing Millage (7 Votes Required)
Explanation of the millage’s intended purpose and use included this statement:
6. The City prioritizes projects that will have permanent affordability commitments, which is achievable through:
a. Development of publicly owned properties
b. Public ownership through the Ann Arbor Housing Commission and its affiliated non-profit development entities
c. Mission-driven non-profits committed to permanent affordability restrictions
d. Cooperative housing or other housing ownership models with permanent affordability restrictions
In November 2020, five new Council Member (all endorsed by Mayor Taylor) were elected and the affordable housing millage was approved by community vote. A majority of the current Council – the Mayor and five members elected in 2020 – should be aware of existing policy, given significant reports and communications that have happened since 2021.
In April 2021, a report on community engagement confirmed public support for affordable housing at the location. A slide presentation described the need for affordable housing downtown.
Report on Community Engagement for Four Downtown City-Owned Properties as Affordable Housing and Update on Ten City-Owned Properties
In June 2021, City Council held a work session on the topic.
Update on Development of City-Owned Properties as Affordable Housing
A presentation included this explanation:
The City is considering the following objectives for redeveloping 309 S. Ashley
- Maximize affordable housing units below 60% Area Median Income (AMI)
- Maximize market rate housing units
- Develop a mix of housing unit types and prices
- Activate the ground floor for public benefit
- Provide parking on site
- Maintain some City ownership/control
- Appropriately scale down to the west and/or Main Street
Existing policy is very clear. A previous Council (including the Mayor) established the policy that these City-owned parcels were an opportunity to build affordable housing units at specific locations. A majority of Council – the Mayor and the five members he endorsed in 2020 – are well aware that the feasibility of affordability housing at these locations was assessed. They should be well aware, also, that a process of public engagement found support for the development of affordable housing at the Klines lot.
If Council had voted to rescind past policy – the policy to develop affordable housing at City-owned properties – that step, alone, would not permit backroom negotiations for a sports resort on the Klines lot. Reversing previous policy only opens the door for a wide range of other profit-seeking ventures. In the past, when City-owned properties have been specifically designated for sale and redevelopment by private developers, they were the subject of either an open bidding process to generate the most revenue or an open RFP process to dictate the end product.
A City-issued RFP – “Request for Proposals” – identifies community goals and priorities, and invites proposals to meet them. The RFP process is public and includes very clear guidelines for how proposals are submitted to City staff. This RFP process is an important mechanism for transparency, to prevent unfair advantage to specific people or entities. City-issued RFPs include boilerplate language that prohibits direct communication with anyone who might have influence over the process:
“Attempts by the bidder to initiate contact with anyone other than the Designated City Contacts provided herein that the bidder believes can influence the procurement decision, e.g., Elected Officials, City Administrator, Selection Committee Members, Appointed Committee Members, etc., may lead to immediate elimination from further consideration.”
It is worth noting that two Council Members have at least acknowledged – via social media and emailed newsletters – that an RFP might be the appropriate process for consideration of something like a sports resort on the Klines lot. However, according to MLive, the whole of Council have – behind the scenes – already considered the single proposal from Sports Illustrated Resorts:
“City Council Member Erica Briggs, D-5th Ward, said council members recently got a look at a rough concept for the Sports Illustrated Resorts development, which also includes condos.”
City Council did not bother to issue an RFP when it would have been appropriate to do so. Additionally, they have already violated the terms of what that RFP would have required in terms of open, fair, and objective process.
CHOOSING A PROPOSAL
If Council had voted intentionally to reject the plan for affordable housing on this site and then issued an RFP for the property’s sale and redevelopment, even those two steps would not inevitably lead to private negotiations with a buyer such as Sports Illustrated Resorts. The results of an RFP would lead to a staff recommendation and eventually a public vote of Council. The choice of a specific proposal would appear on a Council meeting agenda and be subject to a public vote by our elected representatives.
This week, we learned that this process has been turned on its head. Our City government is not engaged in an open public process to generate either maximum revenue or maximum community benefit. Instead, the City administrator and City Council is engaging with just one potential developer. According to MLive:
“Dohoney said Sports Illustrated Resorts approached him directly and the CEO is a longtime Ann Arbor resident.”
‘“At this point, we’re in discussions,” Dohoney said, adding there is no deal yet and the resort company is still doing its due diligence and gathering information.”
WHY THIS MATTERS
City leaders are currently negotiating a deal that would violate the policy still in place and approved by a previous Council: City-owned properties are a resource to be used for the development of affordable housing. That policy was repeatedly voted on and approved in public meetings by a majority of elected representatives. The whole of our community voted on an affordable housing millage in support of that policy: revenue from the millage is described as funding the development of affordable housing on City-owned properties.
In April 2023, City Administrator Dohoney publicly presented his budget which included the idea of using City resources to build high-end market rate housing. MLive reported:
“Dohoney also proposes the city sell the city-owned Klein [sic] Lot parking lot downtown to facilitate another high-density, market-rate development to generate new city revenue. Multiple council members also have expressed support for that.”
In the months since Dohoney’s presentation, Council has put nothing on a public agenda to specifically debate or consider the idea. There is no public record of any vote to reverse established policy regarding the City-owned properties previously designated for the development of affordable housing. There is no public record of any vote to sell this property to private developers, either to the highest bidder or through an RFP process. Elected leaders have already violated the terms of what could have been an open and transparent RFP process.
An official social media account for the City announced on Friday:
Exciting news for Ann Arbor, which is in discussions with Sports Illustrated Resorts to evaluate our beautiful college town for a sports-themed resort in A2!
Council members elected in 2020 and 2022 postured their commitment to affordable housing while aggressively insisting that incumbents were “anti-housing.” A previous Council approved policy, analysis, and public engagement leading to a recommendation that this property be developed with affordable housing. City voters approved funding to support affordable housing on this site and others. Our community should have the opportunity to consider whether a “sports resort” is a better use for this property.
Thank you for taking the time to be informed about our local government!