Welcome to everyone who is new to this newsletter! Before every Ann Arbor City Council meeting, I write up my own summary of each agenda item and try to pull details that I think are most relevant to understanding them. My hope is that these summaries can help residents keep track of what City Council is doing. For issues that matter to you, I encourage you to follow links (next to each agenda item) to the City’s Legistar website, where you can find all the background information.
This week’s agenda is very short and, due to the Primary election on Tuesday, our Council meeting is delayed to Thursday.
Important election reminder: ABSENTEE BALLOTS should be returned to the drop box at City Hall (in the vestibule – you don’t even have to go in the lobby!). For more information, visit the City Clerk’s page about elections:
If you did not request an absentee ballot, don’t forget to vote in person this Tuesday, August 4!
Ward 4 Virtual Coffee Hours
Ward 4 Council Members are hosting a virtual coffee hour this Monday (August 3rd) at 9 a.m. via Zoom. If you would like to chat with CM Jack Eaton or myself, send one of us an email to get the link (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com)
Thursday Aug 6th 7:00pm
Please note that the next Council meeting is on a Thursday because of the Tuesday Primary Election. Council is meeting again using the Zoom application. The video feed will be broadcast on CTN and YouTube. As with the previous meetings, public comment will be audio only using Zoom. Please check the Legistar link below for the latest information.
Local COVID-19 Information and Links
City of Ann Arbor COVID-19 Updates
Washtenaw County COVID-19 Updates
State of Michigan COVID-19 Updates
A2ELNEL.com Website Updates
In addition to writing this newsletter, I post updates to my website with my perspectives on how issues were resolved at City Council and details on how Council voted at each meeting. I also post information about meetings and issues that affect Ward 4 residents, along with news that affects all city residents.
You can see a listing of all my posts here: https://www.a2elnel.com/blog/
City Council Voting Chart for July 27, 2020
DTE Planned Power Outage (Aug 10th 8:30-9:00am) Map Attached
DTE is planning a 30 minute power outage in a limited area on Aug 10th. A map of the affected area is included in the post.
Gallup Park Vehicle Bridge Survey open until Aug 13th
The vehicle bridge at Gallup Park has been identified for replacement and public input is being sought for how Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation could improve the bridge and adjacent segments of the park road and the Border-to-Border trail.
Scio Church Service Drive Traffic Calming Survey results posted
The City mailed surveys to addresses near the traffic calming devices installed on Scio Church Service Drive one year ago. This was part of a resident-requested traffic calming program run by the City.
Lane Closure/Construction Notices
Below are the current Ward 4 construction notices and lane closures that I have been forwarded by City staff. Additional information is available at the City’s website:
Street Resurfacing July 24, 2020 (Agincourt, Brampton Court, Covington, Dicken, Runnymede, Wimpole)
A construction notice was circulated to affected property owners/residents along Agincourt, Brampton Court, Covington Street, Dicken Drive, Runnymede Boulevard, and Wimpole Street regarding resurfacing work planned to begin July 30th.
Detour for Hill Street and South Division (July 29 – Aug 14)
Beginning 9 a.m. Wednesday, July 29, Hill Street will be closed to through traffic and northbound South Division Street traffic will be reduced to one lane. Details and map of the detour are included.
Boardwalk Drive Temporary Detour (July 20th – Aug 29th)
Boardwalk Drive (from East Eisenhower Parkway to Northerly End) will have traffic detours starting July 20th. A map of the detour is attached.
Boardwalk Drive (East Eisenhower Parkway to Northerly End) Construction starts July 20th
Boardwalk Drive (East Eisenhower Parkway to Northerly End) will begin major reconstruction on July 20th. A copy of the construction notice sent to affected residents is attached.
South Blvd Water Main Construction starts July 27th
Water main construction along South Blvd begins the week of July 27th – a copy of the construction notice sent to affected residents is attached.
South Main Street Intermittent Lane Closures (July 20th – Aug 19th)
Due to asphalt path construction, there will be intermittent lane closures on South Main Street (between West Eisenhower Parkway and Ann Arbor-Saline Road) starting July 20th
South Main Street Asphalt Paths Construction starts July 20th
Rehabilitation of the asphalt paths along South Main Street between West Eisenhower Parkway and Ann Arbor-Saline Rd will begin July 20th. A copy of the construction notice sent to affected residents is attached.
A2COUNCIL Updates (A2COUNCIL.com)
For anyone interested in understanding and analyzing the recent work of Council, I have created a resource at A2COUNCIL.com with summaries of issues and direct links to City documents. For each City Council meeting since November 2018, you can find links to the City’s Legistar website, CTN’s YouTube video, and links to my newsletters and voting charts. I have listed agenda items of interest from each meeting, along with articles I’ve written and articles published on MLive.
A reminder about a few city resources:
A2 Fix It
This is an online system for alerting the city to problems in your neighborhood (e.g. potholes, graffiti, garbage pickup). This is the city’s preferred method for hearing your complaint so they can direct appropriate staff to address it. I’m happy to hear from you, too, but city staff tell me that the online A2FixIt system is actually the quickest and fastest way to get a response to the problem. Information about A2FixIt (and explanation of more urgent issues and appropriate numbers to call) is here:
City News and Announcements
This is a helpful link to updates on events and opportunities in Ann Arbor through City Hall:
City Department Updates
If you have specific interests related to the city’s work, e.g. construction projects, deer management, recycling, you can subscribe to receive emailed updates on various topics found here:
Boards and Commissions Applications
Membership on Ann Arbor Boards and Commissions is constantly changing as terms end and appointees step down. We need you! You can find openings at the following link (or contact me directly) https://a2gov.granicus.com/boards/w/fe6c5e22e6f4a331/vacancies
Ann Arbor City Council Meeting Agenda
Below is my summary of some 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, feel free to email me.
The full agenda (including a link to the latest published PDF agenda) can be found on the A2Gov Legistar website:
Ann Arbor City Council
Thursday Aug 6, 2020 (7:00pm)
City Council meetings are broadcast live by CTN on Comcast (channel 16) and AT&T (channel 99). They are also streamed live on YouTube and Viebit:
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 (20-1174) August 6, 2020 Agenda Response Memo and eComments
This agenda item has a PDF attachment with all questions raised by Council Members, and the answers provided by staff.
Communications from the Mayor
MC-1 (20-1148) Nominations and Appointments for August 6, 2020
This nomination from the Mayor is being introduced at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting.
- Larry Kerber – Energy Commission
- Brigit Macomber – Energy Commission (reappointment)
- Ember McCoy – Energy Commission (reappointment)
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 (20-1024) Resolution to Approve an Agreement with the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office for Weapons Screening Services in the Ann Arbor Justice Center (NTE $190,000.00)
CA-2 (20-1025) Resolution to Approve Professional Legal Services Agreement with Reiser and Dawid, P.L.L.C. to Provide Legal Representation as Court-appointed Counsel to Indigent Defendants. ($62,432.16)
CA-3 (20-1060) Resolution to Approve a Professional Legal Services Agreement with Washtenaw County on behalf of the Washtenaw County Office of Public Defender to Provide Legal Representation at Arraignment to Indigent Defendants. ($35,000.00)
CA-4 (20-1130) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order for New Election Day High-Speed Absentee Ballot Vote Tabulator from Hart InterCivic ($127,140.00)
CA-5 (20-0973) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of Two Front Loading Refuse Trucks from Bell Equipment Company and to Appropriate Funding from the Fleet Fund Balance (Sourcewell – $706,814.00) (8 Votes Required)
CA-6 (20-1020) Resolution to Approve a Two (2) year Purchasing Agreement for Aggregate Materials and Hauling Services for Excavation and Street Sweeping Waste from Farmer & Underwood Trucking, Ltd., ITB-4637 ($241,732.50)
CA-7 (20-1039) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of Survey Equipment from Leica Geosystems, Inc. (State of Michigan MiDeal Contract 171180000000005, $52,970.99)
CA-8 (20-1079) Resolution to Approve Change Orders No. 4 and No. 5 with Action Traffic Maintenance, Inc. for the 2018 Guardrail Rehabilitation Program ($37,407.39)
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 (20-0810) An Ordinance to Amend Section 1:265 of Chapter 11 (Risk Fund) of Title I of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Ordinance No. ORD-20-22)
This amendment would permit the Chief Financial Officer to approve expenditures from the Risk Fund of over $10,000 without approval from the Insurance Board. The CFO is authorized to fund health and employee benefits (required by contract) or cover emergency expenditures that would otherwise be appropriated from general funds. Service area administrators will be required to report such expenditures to the Board of Insurance Administration within 120 days of the expense.
PH-2/B-2 (20-1042) An Ordinance to Amend Title VII (Businesses and Trades) of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor by Adding a New Chapter Which Shall be Designated as Chapter 97 (Short-Term Rentals) (Ordinance No. ORD-20-24)
If approved, short term rentals will be licensed and regulated by the City. Licensing will require payment of a fee and application that includes: address, type of property, number of bedrooms for rent, maximum permitted occupancy, and names, telephone numbers, and email addresses of two contact persons responsible for the Short-Term Rental Unit. A principal residence may be licensed as a short term rental (either host-stays or whole house rental) if the property owner submits a sworn statement that the licensed dwelling unit is a principal residence of the applicant. A non-principal residence short-term rental will only be permitted in Mixed Use Zoning districts. (See Legistar link for map.)
PH-3/DB-1 (20-1041) Resolution to Approve Liberty Townhomes Site Plan and Development Agreement, 2658 W. Liberty St. (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 9 Yeas and 0 Nays)
A site plan for a property on the north side of W. Liberty Street (adjacent to 1-94 bridge) would permit 52 dwelling units in 9 three-story buildings on a 4.6-acre site zoned R4B (Multiple-Family Dwelling). Due to visibility concerns, the driveway exit on Liberty Street will be structured for RIGHT TURN ONLY (heading west, away from town). In response to concerns related to fire/emergency, the driveway was re-designed to permit left turns for large wheel-base vehicles.
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 (20-0810) An Ordinance to Amend Section 1:265 of Chapter 11 (Risk Fund) of Title I of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Ordinance No. ORD-20-22)
This is the same as PH-1 above.
B-2 (20-1042) An Ordinance to Amend Title VII (Businesses and Trades) of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor by Adding a New Chapter Which Shall be Designated as Chapter 97 (Short-Term Rentals) (Ordinance No. ORD-20-24)
This is the same as PH-2 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 approval. If approved, the ordinance will be voted on at a subsequent Council meeting, where it will also be subject to a public hearing.
There are no ordinance first readings at this Council Meeting.
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 (20-1167) Resolution to Order Election and to Determine Ballot Question for Charter Amendment to Allow for Ranked Choice Voting (7 Votes Required)
A ballot question would be added to the November ballot to allow for ranked choice voting in our local elections (if the state ever passes a law that would permit ranked choice voting). In a conventional election, voters communicate a single choice and, among multiple candidates, a contest can be won with a plurality rather than a majority of votes. A ranked choice system of voting would permit voters to “rank” every candidate for City Council and Mayor numerically in both our partisan primaries and general elections. Ranked choice voting would measure voter preferences more accurately in contests between more than two candidates. See my “Additional Thoughts” section below.
DB-1 (20-1041) Resolution to Approve Liberty Townhomes Site Plan and Development Agreement, 2658 W. Liberty St. (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 9 Yeas and 0 Nays)
This is the same as PH-3 above.
This week, we consider an item that was added to our agenda late (Friday) and is likely to prompt significant discussion because we were unable to submit written questions ahead of our meeting (according to our Council Rules, questions to the agenda must be submitted no later than Wednesday). Agenda item DC-1 would add a ballot question in November, amending our charter to allow ranked choice voting for City Elections in anticipation of potential changes in State law. Ranked choice voting is currently not permitted under Michigan State law, but two State House Bills have been proposed on the topic. You can find them here:
House Bill 5281
House Bill 5282
This weekend, I reached out to our State Rep. Yousef Rabhi – he is one of the sponsors of HB 5281/HB 5282 – to better understand what ranked choice voting (as defined by the State) would look like in Ann Arbor. First, he told me that neither of the current bills are likely to pass, but that he is going to re-introduce other bills on the topic in the next legislative session. Yousef also acknowledged that, as written, the State law would likely be aimed at the overwhelming majority of local municipalities who hold non-partisan elections for local officers.
Ann Arbor is one of only three communities in the state of Michigan that maintain partisan elections for local officials. If HB 5281/HB 5282 did pass, most Michigan communities would benefit from highly inclusive local elections: a diversity of candidates from multiple parties could appear on a single ballot to be ranked and judged in a way that measured community preference without “splitting” the vote. As proposed in DC-1, Ann Arbor would adopt ranked choice voting but maintain the party divisions that limit participation. Ranked choice voting would apply twice: first within partisan primary elections in August and again in November for the general election.
Under ranked choice voting as proposed in DC-1, Ann Arbor’s partisan primaries for local officials would continue to happen in August (timing that effectively excludes our student population), with marginally improved opportunities for independent/third party candidates in November. Our partisan elections mean that ranked choice voting in August would be limited to a single party – crossover voting between second or third parties is expressly prohibited by State law. There would be less risk of a third candidate “splitting” the vote, but only within a single party primary. According to HB 5281, ranked choice voting for City Officers must be the “only election on the ballot.” In our November elections, a Democratic candidate would retain party affiliation, but local candidates would no longer benefit from straight ticket voting; ranked choice voting must be on a separate ballot.
Ranked choice voting has been promoted by many as a way to better reflect community preference, create more opportunity for independent/third party candidates, and prevent a “split vote” in which a candidate wins an election with less than majority support. These are three goals that Council aimed to address last year when we voted to put non-partisan elections on the ballot for voters to decide. Last year’s proposal for nonpartisan elections would have allowed for August contests between three or more candidates but require a contested 2-candidate (runoff) election in November, so that Ann Arbor’s student population could participate in choosing local leaders. A majority of Council supported putting that proposal on the ballot, but it was vetoed by the Mayor.
I have many questions about agenda item DC-1 and I know that my colleagues will also. Ranked choice voting is clearly a much better measure of community preference (particularly among more than two candidates) but it works best outside of party primaries, where voters can rank multiple candidates regardless of party. If Ann Arbor aims to have inclusive elections that measure community preference best, our local contests must happen in November, when our student population is in town to vote.
None of this is likely to be apparent to the average voter who sees this question on the ballot. As proposed in DC-1, the ballot question will read:
Shall the Charter be amended to provide that the Mayor and City Council members are to be nominated and elected by a Ranked Choice Voting method in the event that State law allows for it?
Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!