Ann Arbor City Council Newsletter (February 1, 2020)

Feb 1, 2020 | Newsletter

Hello neighbors!

Before I begin, I’d like to thank everyone who expressed support and condolences on the loss of my father-in-law. Our family has had quite a month of crisis and grieving.

This weekend, my “regular” job directly conflicts with my coffee hours, but CM Jack Eaton has agreed to cover for me. If you have any concerns about items on the Ann Arbor City Council agenda or other City issues, I invite you to share them with Jack.

Also: if you or anyone you know is looking for a part-time preschool (three days a week, 9 a.m-1:30 p.m., ages 2.5 to 6 years), I encourage you to visit the event below:

Sunday, February 2
3 p.m. – 5 p.m.  (presentation at 3:00)
TLC Adventure Preschool
1400 West Stadium Boulevard

This week, our Council meeting has a fairly short consent agenda, two public hearings, resolutions to create a Council Mobility Committee and improve City communications, and a proposal to amend our city code to standardize the process of appointment to boards and commissions (see my “Additional Thoughts” section below).

If you would like to receive this newsletter via email before it is published on my website, please click here to signup:

A2ELNEL coffee hours Feb 2 2020

Council Caucus

Some of us on City Council have decided to resume a tradition of “Council Caucus” on Sunday nights. I am looking forward to this opportunity for additional open, public conversation around the issues that matter to you!

Council Caucus
Sunday Feb 2 (7:00-9:00pm)
City Hall 2nd Floor
301 E Huron St


  • Public comment general time. (Three minutes, no need to signup in advance and speakers will be assigned in the order of arrival.)
  • Discussion, primarily topics on the next day’s Council agenda.

More Information:

  • One or more council members will be present for each caucus.
  • Children are welcome. (Books and crayons provided)

For more information about Council Caucus, see the city website at:

Pioneer Theatre Guild – Our Town

In other important Ward 4 news: Pioneer Theater Guild is performing the Pulitzer Prize winning play “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder. Edward Albee called it “the greatest American play ever written”. Our Town is a deeply moving, yet simple and heartfelt story of love, marriage, death – and thereafter.

  • Thursday, February 6, 7:30 pm
  • Friday, February 7, 7:30 pm
  • Saturday, February 8, 7:30 pm
  • Sunday, February 9, 2:00 pm (matinee)

The performances are held at Pioneer High School in the Little Theater.
Buy tickets online at

For more information about the show:

PS: I’ve heard that in this production, audiences will particularly enjoy the scenes that include CONSTABLE WARREN. My unbiased sources tell me that the kid who plays that part is excellent 🙂

Pioneer Theatre Guild Ann Arbor Our Town Feb 2020

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)

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:

City Council Voting Chart for Jan 21, 2020

Absentee Ballot Envelopes have a New Appearance
A message from the City Clerk’s office about the new design for absentee ballots that will be issued for the Mar 10th Presidential Primary.

“I Voted” Sticker Design Contest entries due by Mar 31
The City is holding a design contest for “I Voted” stickers. Entries are due by Mar 31, with the winning stickers to be distributed at the polls during the 2020 Presidential Election in November.

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:

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
Monday Feb 3, 2020 (7:00pm)
City Hall 2nd Floor
301 E Huron St

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-4 (20-0218) February 3, 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 (20-0088) Appointments – Confirmations
This Mayoral appointment was introduced at the 1/21/20 Council meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting.

  • Robert White – Board of Review-Panel 2

Consent Agenda

Below is the list of items included on tomorrow’s 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 (20-0059) Resolution to Approve the Renewal of the City’s Agreement with Flores & Associates, LLC to Provide Flexible Spending, Health Reimbursement Account and COBRA Administration to City Employees and Their Dependents and Authorize the City Administrator to Execute the Necessary Documentation

CA-2 (20-0071) Resolution to Approve Street Closing for the ALLIANCE (National Training Institute) Opening Ceremony Dinner – Sunday, July 26, 2020 from 6:00 AM to Midnight

CA-3 (20-0126) Resolution to Approve Street Closings for the 2020 Take Back the Night (Rally and March) – Thursday, April 2, 2020

CA-4 (20-0140) Resolution to Approve Street Closures for the A2 Artoberfest from 6:00 AM on Friday, October 16, 2020 through 11:00 PM on Sunday, October 18, 2020

CA-5 (20-0046) Resolution to Approve Riverside Park Parking Lot Land Lease with the University of Michigan (8 Votes Required)

CA-6 (20-0057) Resolution to Approve Amendment Number Two to the Agreement with Morris & McDaniel, Inc. for Fire Services Promotional Testing Services ($26,605.00) (8 Votes Required)

CA-7 (19-2418) Resolution to Authorize Professional Services Agreements with Material Testing Consultants, Inc. ($125,000.00); Testing Engineers & Consultants, Inc. ($125,000.00); Tetra Tech, Inc. ($125,000.00); CTI and Associates, Inc. ($125,000.00) and The Mannik and Smith Group, Inc. ($75,000.00) for As-Needed Geotechnical and Environmental Services
CA-7 was deleted from the agenda on Jan 27, 2020

CA-8 (20-0003) Resolution to Award a Contract for the Water Treatment Plant Filter Backwash Improvements Project to Goyette Mechanical Company, Inc. ($406,800.00)

CA-9 (20-0099) Resolution to Restate the Purpose and Membership of the Ann Arbor Energy Commission

CA-10 (20-0060) Resolution to Approve an Amendment to the Pharmacy Benefit Management Agreement with Express Scripts Inc. ($8,580,812.00)

CA-11 (20-0063) Resolution to Approve the Amendment and Renewal of the City’s Contract with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to Provide Administrative Claims Processing Services and Related Stop-Loss Insurance Coverage 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 ($1,165,868.00)

CA-12 (20-0061) Resolution to Approve Amendment to Member Services Agreement with Keenan & Associates ($88,000.00)

CA-13 (20-0066) Resolution to Approve Amendment No. 2 to the Agreement Between the City of Ann Arbor and Rosati, Schultz, Joppich & Amtsbuechler, P.C. for Legal Services Related to a Michigan Tax Tribunal Real Property Tax Appeal ($40,000.00)

Public Hearings

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 (20-0097) An Ordinance to Amend Section 1:237 of Chapter 8 (Organization of Boards and Commissions) of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor
The Bylaws for the Environmental Commission would be amended to expand membership. Two youth members (aged 16-25) would be nominated by Council Members serving on the commission and appointed by resolution for one-year terms.

PH-2/DB-1 (20-0058) Resolution to Approve the Hosford Annexation, 3.56 Acres, 2260 Traver Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 7 Yeas and 0 Nays)
An Ann Arbor Township property at 2260 Traver Road (3.56 acres) would be annexed into the City. It is within the City’s water and sewer service area, and the current use is consistent with the adjacent zoning, land uses and master plan. The Planning Commission recommends R1B zoning (to be approved by Council after the annexation process is complete). 

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 (20-0097) An Ordinance to Amend Section 1:237 of Chapter 8 (Organization of Boards and Commissions) of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor
This 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 approval. If approved, the ordinance will be voted on at a subsequent Council meeting, where it will also be subject to a public hearing.

C-1 (20-0015) An Ordinance Authorizing the Issuance and Sale of Water Supply System Revenue Bonds, Series 2020 to the Michigan Finance Authority (Roll Call Vote Required – One Reading Only)
The City would issue $3,400,000 in Water Supply System Revenue Bonds to finance a portion of the cost of additions and improvements to our water supply system. Among other things, the City plans to acquire and construct water disinfection technology. These bonds will be sold directly to the Michigan Financial Authority under their Drinking Water Revolving Fund program.

C-2 (20-0196) An Ordinance to Amend Section 1:171 of Chapter 8 (Organization of Boards and Commissions) of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor
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 (19-1887) Resolution Supporting the Environmental Protection Agency’s Active Involvement with the Gelman Site and Encouraging its Listing of the same as a “Superfund” Site
(Note: this was first presented at Council on 10/7/19, was postponed to 1/6/20, and postponed again to 1/21/20, and postponed again to this meeting)
City Council would express its support of the EPA’s active involvement in cleanup of the Gelman plume and encourages the EPA to list the site of the Contamination a “Superfund” site on the National Priorities List under CERCLA. The City Administrator would convey this resolution to the Governor, soliciting a Concurrence Letter to USEPA in support of making the Gelman Site into a National Priorities List site. This resolution (and any other state concurrence) would also be sent to the Washtenaw County delegation to the Michigan Legislature, the Director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell.

DC-2 (20-0037) Resolution to Appoint Eric Ellis to the Greenbelt Advisory Commission
This nomination was introduced at the Jan 21st Council meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting.

  • Eric Ellis, Greenbelt Advisory Commission

DC-3 (20-0193) Resolution to Establish City Council Mobility Committee
A Council Mobility Committee of five Council Members (appointed by the Mayor) would be established to consider proposed resolutions on topics of mobility policy and mobility safety initiatives. It would engage with other entities such as the Washtenaw County Commission, SEMCOG, WATS, Spark, DDA, State and Federal elected officials, MDOT, Vision Zero Network and Families for Safe Streets. Regarding issues of mobility, the council members on the Council Mobility Committee would be included in community engagement, notified in advance of all staff meetings with constituents and copied on all staff communications to constituents.

DC-4 (20-0194) Resolution for City Council Communications
The goals of this resolution are to improve collaboration, accuracy of information, and transparency in government communication. Council Members would be copied on emails containing their names, and emails on topics of general policy interest would be available to all Council Members. An events calendar would be maintained to keep Council Members updated and aware of all Ward-specific community engagement meetings led by staff. Responses to agenda questions would more specifically indicate authorship (per question).

DC-5 (20-0191) Resolution to Recommend Approval of Issuance of a Downtown Development District Liquor License to Jagged Fork III LLC
A liquor license would be approved for an establishment at 414 S. Main Street. It is within the Downtown Development District and meets statutory requirements for a liquor licenses, including documented expenditures of at least $75,000 for rehabilitation/restoration of their building in the last five years. The Council Liquor Committee found that Jagged Fork III LLC meets the criteria for issuance of a license, at an appropriate location for a liquor license under applicable planning and development plans of the City. It recommends the issuance of a license for beer, wine and liquor and to make no specific restriction on the hours of operation.

DB-1 (20-0058) Resolution to Approve the Hosford Annexation, 3.56 Acres, 2260 Traver Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 7 Yeas and 0 Nays)
This is the same as PH-2 above.

DS-1 (20-0083) Resolution to Appropriate $5,000.00 from General Fund to Fund Additional Tasks Associated with the Comprehensive Transportation Plan Update Project and to Approve an Amendment to the Professional Services Agreement with Sam Schwartz Consulting, LLC ($356,670.00) (8 Votes Required)
(Note: this was postponed from the 1/21/20 Council meeting)
In response to a resolution from Council, our contract with Sam Schwartz Consulting would be amended to appropriate an additional $5,000. The Council resolution asked for “an assessment of our pedestrian and cycling environment” but, as proposed, this contract amendment would provide for assessment of staff, job responsibilities, and peer cities. This was included in the Consent Agenda of our last meeting (1/21/20) and pulled for discussion. It was postponed to consider if the services requested are consistent with what Council requested.

Additional thoughts…

On this week’s agenda, I have sponsored an amendment to our process for appointments to boards and commissions. The amendment would standardize procedures that currently vary across bylaws for the different bodies. It is my hope that the changes will open up conversation about appointments and expand opportunity for a larger circle of people. 


According to our City Code, Board and Commission openings will be filled according to the original terms of appointment. Most board and commission appointments are nominations from the Mayor, with approval from Council. There are a few exceptions.

E.g. The bylaws for the Environmental Commission state that eight of their members will be “nominated by Council Members serving” on it. The recently established Independent Community Police Oversight Commission (ICPOC) defines a specific role for Council Liaisons: the members of ICPOC are “appointed by one or more of CM Liaisons to HRC or ICPOC.” The Commission on Disability Issues (CODI) bylaws are even more inclusive around recommendations for appointment, anticipating full participation from the whole commission:

Section 5. In an effort to keep the Commission full and diverse, any member of the Commission may present applicants to the Commission for a vote on whether to recommend to the Mayor the applicant’s appointment to the Commission.

For the Environmental Commission, ICPOC, and CODI, at least two people review and recommend applicants, prior to their nomination. I believe that this process would be helpful for all boards and commissions. My amendment would add a preliminary step of review and recommendation before the Mayor’s nomination, including a role for Council Liaison(s) and, also, designated member(s) of the given board or commission. 

Improved Process

The people most likely to know the skills and experience needed to serve on a board or commission are the people currently serving. Not all boards and commissions include a Council Liaison. However, for those boards and commissions that do have a Council Liaison, we can play a special role in facilitating review and discussion of potential new members.

A year ago, at our request, Council was given login access to the database of applicants to Boards and Commissions. Now that we have access to this database, Council Members can see resumes and read explanations from each applicant about the skills and experience they would bring to the appointment. (Prior to January 2019, Council was presented with Mayoral nominations for appointment to Boards and Commissions without knowing the applicant pool from which the nomination had been chosen.)

What we are missing now on most of these volunteer bodies: any formal process for the Mayor’s office to receive input re: applications, specifically from any current member serving or from those Council Members acting as liaisons to the specific board or commission. 

Amendment, Chapter 8, 1:171 (1)

I am proposing to add the following language to our City Code chapter on “Organization of Boards and Commissions.” It would read:

(a) When one or more City Council members are appointed as members of or liaisons to a board or commission, the board or commission shall designate a group consisting of the City Council members and one or more voting members of the board or commission to review applications for membership on the board or commission.

(b) The group designated under Section 1:171(1)(a) shall submit recommendations for appointments to the Mayor, or to City Council for appointments made by City Council, from among the applications reviewed.

The public service attached to these appointments is important. If we value the work of our boards and commissions, we should care about the process of appointing their members. If approved this week, the amendment will have passed “first reading.” At a later meeting, it will then have a second reading (and public hearing) before it is officially added to our City Code.

Year in review

In the last year, the Mayor has communicated about a hundred nominations for appointment to boards and commissions. Well over half of these nominations were re-appointments. In recent months, I have noticed Mayoral appointments have been added to our agendas late, often added on the same day of the Council meeting. Council theoretically has the opportunity to consider and view applicants before approval, but we cannot offer meaningful input when names are publicized at the last minute and immediately subject to public debate and discussion.

In the database accessible to Council, we can see when each application was submitted, when that resident volunteered to serve our community; some board and commission applications have been in our system for months or years. In just the last year, the city has received hundreds of applications to boards and commissions. By my count, of the approximately 40 “new” appointments made by the Mayor in the last year (i.e. not re-appointments), over a third of these applications were submitted less than four weeks before the Council meeting at which they were nominated. One Mayoral nomination was apparently communicated to Council before the person had even submitted an application.

Nothing about my amendment interferes with the power of the Mayor to ultimately nominate whomever he likes. My amendment does not require that the Mayor nominate only among those applicants recommended to him. However, I think it is good process to include at least two people in a thoughtful review of each applicant before nomination.

Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!
Elizabeth Nelson