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, due to the Presidents Day holiday, our meeting is scheduled for Tuesday. The agenda is extremely short, so our meeting will almost certainly be much shorter than usual. The short agenda includes two developments (St. Francis Assisi parish addition and 907/913 S. Main), reconsideration of the Council Rules approved at our last meeting, and a resolution to achieve more effective snow removal downtown. I wrote more about these last two agenda items below in my “Additional Thoughts” section below.
Earlier this week, Council had a work session on the topic of our budget. The City anticipates significant revenue shortfalls, so every City department was asked to contemplate cutting 5% from their annual budgets. At our work session, staff presentations specifically addressed potential cuts and what would be sacrificed. I plan to write more on this topic at some point, but in the meantime, I encourage everyone to look at Mlive reporting by Ryan Stanton about this work session:
As I mentioned in my last newsletter, I am still waiting for my turn to get vaccinated and I am still teaching preschool in-person. I got tested this week, due to an indirect/possible exposure at my school. In retrospect, my actual risk was very low (due to many safety protocols) but it was also a relief to get a negative test result. We are living in strange times, for sure!
Residents in need of financial help during this crisis (e.g. to avoid eviction, pay utility bills, cover emergency medical expenses) can find resources at this link:
Virtual Coffee Hours
Sunday Feb 14th 3:00pm
During the COVID-19 crisis I have been holding “virtual” coffee hours with Zoom on Sunday afternoons before scheduled City Council meetings. Please email me for a link:
Sunday Feb 14th 6:00pm
We have been holding Council Caucus on Sunday nights before Council meetings since March 2019. All Council Members are invited to participate. During the COVID-19 crisis, we are holding Caucus via Zoom. Please check the Legistar link below for the latest information
Tuesday Feb 16th 7:00pm (note date change because of holiday)
Council is meeting again using the Zoom application. The video feed will be broadcast on CTN and YouTube. Public comment is audio only using dial-in numbers. Please check the Legistar link below for the latest information.
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 Feb 1, 2021
Ann Arbor Community Academy (A2CA) signup by Feb 19th
Ann Arbor Community Academy (previously Ann Arbor Citizens Academy) will run this year from March 10th through April 28th. People interested in participating are asked to fill out an interest form by Feb 19th.
Churchill Downs Park Stormwater Basin Zoom Meetings Mar 4th
Two Zoom meetings will be held on Mar 4th about the stormwater basin project at Churchill Downs Park
City Survey for Ordinance on Energy and Water Use of Commercial and Multifamily Bldgs closes Mar 5th
The City of Ann Arbor wants public input on a Commercial and Multifamily Benchmarking and Transparency draft ordinance, an initiative of the City’s A2ZERO Carbon Neutrality Plan.
Ann Arbor City Hall building closure extended to Mar 31st
To comply with new State orders, City Hall will be closed through Mar 31, 2021.
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.
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
Tuesday Feb 16, 2021 (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-3 (21-0308) Agenda Response Memo and eComments – February 16, 2021
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 (21-0220) Appointment – Confirmation
This nomination from the Mayor were introduced at the previous meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting. Note that this nomination was added to the previous meeting’s Agenda on the day of the meeting, and was therefore was not announced in time for last week’s newsletter.
- Zachary Damon – Cable Communications Commission
MC-2 (21-0275) Nominations and appointments for February 16, 2021
These nominations from the Mayor are being introduced at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting.
- Lynn Nybell – Elizabeth Dean Fund
- Jason Talley – Housing and Human Services Advisory Board
- Skylar Woodman – Housing and Human Services Advisory Board
- Laurence O’Connell – Recreation Advisory
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 (20-1237) Resolution to Approve an Amendment to the Professional Services Agreement with CalAmp, Inc. for Tracking Fees and Annual Maintenance and Support of the Automated Vehicle Locator (AVL) Units ($55,080, Annually)
CA-2 (21-0122) Resolution to Approve an Agreement with CenturyLink Communications, LLC to Purchase Wireless Networking Equipment, Software and Related Services to Replace Legacy Equipment and Upgrade the Water Treatment Plants Wireless Network ($99,001)
CA-3 (21-0150) Resolution to Approve Schedule 37 to the Interagency Agreement for Collaborative Technology and Services for a Merit Networks Shared Internet Connection with Washtenaw County and the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA) ($38,964 over a 3-year period)
CA-4 (20-1649) Resolution to Approve Amendment #1 of the Sub-Contract with the University of Michigan for the Leadership Circle Membership with MCity Project ($52,952.00 increase, total contract value $105,155.00) (8 Votes Required)
CA-5 (21-0121) Resolution to Approve the Installation of Traffic Calming Devices on Glenwood Road (Overridge to Washtenaw) in the amount of $83,085.00
CA-6 (21-0183) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order with Toter LLC for Solid Waste Containers ($98,000.00) and appropriate $98,000.00 (8 Votes Required)
CA-7 (21-0125) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order with Stryker Medical for the Purchase of Mechanical CPR Devices – LUCAS Devices ($95,794)
CA-8 (21-0148) Resolution to Approve A Distribution from the City’s Police and Firemen’s Relief Fund ($25,000)
CA-9 (21-0149) Resolution to Appoint a New Emergency Management Coordinator and Establish the Line of Succession to the Emergency Management Coordinator for the City of Ann Arbor
CA-10 (21-0189) Resolution to Approve a Contract with Aquatic Source, LLC for the Outdoor Pool Ultraviolet Disinfection Improvements Project ($188,503, ITB No. 4652)
CA-11 (21-0190) Resolution to Recommend Approval of a Three-Year Professional Services Agreement (PSA) for Playground Improvement Services for Parks & Recreation (Not to Exceed $250,000/Year)
CA-12 (21-0224) Resolution to Approve a Street Closure for Conor O’Neill’s Main Street Dining on Main Street Between Liberty and William Streets on Wednesday, March 17, 2021 from 6:00 AM until 11:00 PM
CA-13 (21-0095) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of One Front Loading Refuse Truck from Bell Equipment Company (Sourcewell – $364,568.00)
CA-14 (21-0147) Resolution Adopting Energy Criterion and Principles to Guide Energy-Related Investments in A2ZERO
CA-15 (21-0198) Resolution to Accept a Sanitary Sewer Easement at 1120 and 1130 Maple Road from Hickory Way Apartments Condominium Association (8 Votes Required)
CA-16 (21-0199) Resolution to Accept a Water Main Easement at 1120 and 1130 Maple Road from Hickory Way Apartments Condominium Association (8 Votes Required)
CA-17 (21-0154) Resolution to Approve the Board of Insurance Administration’s January 28, 2021 Recommendations for 2021 Property and Casualty Insurance Renewals
CA-18 (21-0225) Resolution to Approve the January 28, 2021 Recommendation of the Board of Insurance Administration to Deny the Claim and Subsequent Appeal Filed by Claimant Lori Tschirhart for a Sewer Backup Claim (CC040-20)
CA-19 (21-0226) Resolution to Approve the January 28, 2021 Recommendation of the Board of Insurance Administration to Deny the Claim and Subsequent Appeal Filed by Claimant Melanie Welch for a Contractor Dispute Claim in the Amount of $25,000 (CC038-20)
CA-20 (21-0227) Resolution to Approve the January 28, 2021 Recommendation of the Board of Insurance Administration to Deny the Claim and Subsequent Appeal Filed by Claimant Sujata Purohit for a Sewer Backup Claim in the Amount of $13,100 (CC040-20)
CA-21 (21-0243) Resolution to Amend the City Attorney Contract
CA-22 (21-0253) Resolution Recognizing Building Up: Partnering in Health and Wholeness as a Civic Nonprofit Organization Operating in Ann Arbor for the Purpose of Obtaining a Charitable Gaming License
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/DB-1 (21-0038) Resolution to Approve St. Francis of Assisi Site Plan, 2150 Frieze Avenue (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 8 Yeas and 0 Nays)
Approval of this site plan will permit a two story 14,570 square foot parish addition at 2150 Frieze Avenue (St Francis Assisi). It is a Special Exception Use for a residential district.
PH-2/DB-2 (21-0046) Resolution to Approve 907 & 913 S. Main Street Site Plan and Development Agreement, (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 6 Yeas and 0 Nays)
Approval of this site plan will permit the demolition of two existing houses and the combination of lots to construct a six-unit 36 bedroom rental complex at 907 & 913 South Main Street.
New Business – Boards and Commissions
The following agenda items had public hearings as listed above.
DB-1 (21-0038) Resolution to Approve St. Francis of Assisi Site Plan, 2150 Frieze Avenue (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 8 Yeas and 0 Nays)
This is the same as PH-1 above.
DB-2 (21-0046) Resolution to Approve 907 & 913 S. Main Street Site Plan and Development Agreement, (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 6 Yeas and 0 Nays)
This is the same as PH-2 above.
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 at this Council meeting.
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 (21-0096) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Zoning), Rezoning of 1.3 Acres from TWP (Township District) to R1A (Single-Family District), Talpos-Knight Property, 2731 Newport (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 8 Yeas and 0 Nays)
An annexed township island at 2731 Newport will be zoned R1A (Single Family District), consistent with adjacent zoning, the surrounding land uses, and the City’s Master Plan.
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 (21-0221) Resolution to Appoint Aidan Sova to the Human Rights Commission (7 Votes Required)
This nomination from the Mayor were introduced at the previous meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting. Seven votes are required because the “appointee is not a registered elector of the City of Ann Arbor”. Note that this nomination was added to the previous meeting’s Agenda on the day of the meeting, and was therefore was not announced in time for last week’s newsletter.
- Aidan Sova – Human Rights Commission
DC-2 (21-0229) Motion to Reconsider the February 1, 2021 Vote that Approved the Resolution to Approve Amendments to the Council Rules
Motion to reconsider Council Rules approved at 2/1/21 meeting. New Council Rules limit discussion and debate of agenda items with reduced speaking times for Council Members (second speaking time limit changed from 3 minutes to 2 minutes), with a goal to end Council meetings before 11 p.m. Requests for additional discussion and debate of agenda items require a 3/4 vote of approval (nine Council Members). Council members are directed not to “assail, question or impugn the integrity, character, or motives of another Member” in any context (inside or outside of the meeting). The Presiding Officer (Mayor) will have full discretion to determine whether this violation has occurred and either grant an offended Council Member two minutes of speaking time or call a Council Member out of order for making the complaint. I wrote more about this in my “Additional Thoughts” section below.
DC-3 (21-0286) Resolution to Request that the City Administrator Determine the Cost and Feasibility of Supplemental Snow and Ice Removal of our Pedestrian Infrastructure to Improve Pedestrian Safety within the DDA Boundaries
This resolution directs the City Administrator to determine the cost and feasibility of supplemental snow and ice removal of our pedestrian infrastructure to improve pedestrian safety in the downtown DDA district. Potential projects would remove the snow and ice that collects on sidewalks, bus stops and crosswalk ramps due to city plowing. I wrote more about this in my “Additional Thoughts” section below.
Two especially interesting items on this week’s agenda are DC-2 and DC-3: a motion to reconsider recently approved Council Rules (DC-2) and a resolution to address more effective snow removal downtown in the DDA district (DC-3).
At our meeting on February 1st, Council approved new Council Rules with significant changes, specifically regulating the speech of Council members both inside and outside of our meetings. In the context of meetings, the new rules aimed to limit substantive discussion and debate of agenda items with shorter speaking times for Council Members. The rules also define a new violation, if any Council member speaks to “assail, question or impugn the integrity, character, or motives of another Member.” At the full discretion of the Mayor, a Council Member will be given extra speaking time if they feel that this rule has been violated by speech during or outside of a meeting. At the discretion of the Administrative Committee, these terms can also define an ethics violation for speech outside of a meeting (“in another public venue”). In our Council debate, I supported three different amendments aimed at removing this vague and highly subjective rule, but all three amendments were rejected by a majority of Council.
A few days after Council approved these new Rules, a local attorney (and active member of the ACLU) asked me about them and pointed out a potential “chilling effect” on free speech. The phrase “chilling effect” is a legal term that refers to how the mere threat of possible sanction discourages the legitimate expression of dissent. Our Council debate on these new rules during the Feb 1st meeting did make clear exactly what kind of speech would be targeted: criticism and dissent. At one point, the Mayor explained:
It’s not particularly complicated to have this not be a problem, and that is we all simply avoid speaking about each other in a way that assails, questions, or impugns their integrity, character or motives. We don’t talk about suggestions of improper influence, we don’t talk about or declaim on hypocrisy.
I look forward to re-visiting our Rules and I especially look forward to hearing an opinion from the ACLU about them.
Agenda item DC-3 has been introduced by my colleague, Council Member Ali Ramlawi, who owns a downtown business and also serves on the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Partners committee. This resolution asks our City Administrator to consider the cost and feasibility of improved snow removal for the safety of pedestrians in the downtown area. Though not specifically referenced in the resolution, this is a particularly sensible proposal because of potential collaboration with the DDA and the University. I appreciate the perspective and experience of CM Ramlawi on issues like this – he has a better understanding of our downtown needs than any other member of Council.
At our last meeting, Council considered a similar resolution on the much larger (and more unwieldy) task of snow removal city-wide. One of my colleagues proposed that the City simply collaborate with and expand on the small neighborhood-based volunteer program, Snow Buddy. It happens that the Snow Buddy program was actively studied several years ago, so the City already knows how and why that model is not a viable strategy for city-wide snow removal. When Council discussed this idea, staff helpfully offered additional explanation: the City cannot rely on volunteers because we must comply with minimum wage ordinances. That overly-broad resolution was set aside by Council, postponed to an indefinite date.
What’s contemplated in DC-3 is realistic and achievable. If DC-3 leads to some measure of success downtown, it is much closer to the exact model that could be expanded for better snow removal services city-wide. As a pilot program, it would make a lot of sense.
Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!