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.
I’m cosponsoring two items on this week’s agenda: an ordinance to improve access to housing (C-5) and a resolution to waive privilege on legal memos of advice related to our amended Council Rules (DC-1). I’ve written about C-5 at the bottom of this newsletter in my “Additional Thoughts” section. Agenda item DC-1 will be my second attempt to promote public transparency around First Amendment rights at our Council meetings. On February 1, 2021, I brought a resolution to Council, asking legal staff to prepare a legal memo (for the benefit of the public) to clarify First Amendment rights at our public meetings; a majority of Council opposed it.
On 2/16/21, a majority of Council approved new Rules that classify certain types of speech as an “ethics violation.” The local ACLU is now looking at First Amendment concerns related to these new rules. This week, I am asking to waive privilege on the legal advice already provided to Council about First Amendment issues related to these Rules, specifically so it can be sent to the ACLU. Once the privilege is waived, this advice will be available to the public as well.
Whether or not we release these memos, we will receive an opinion from the ACLU, but I believe that the public should see the advice we received internally. In some cases, it is irresponsible to waive privilege on legal advice because it is part of litigation (publication would put us at a disadvantage) or maintaining confidentiality offers some other benefit. In this case, there is no liability or potential risk to the City in releasing these memos. More importantly, I believe there is a public benefit to transparency, particularly given the involvement of the ACLU.
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 28th 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 28th 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.
Monday Mar 1st 7:00pm
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 16, 2021
Reflections on Feb 16th Council Meeting
I wrote about the surprising results of three issues voted on at the Council meeting on Feb 16, 2021: snow removal, regulation of speech, and a street closure.
Michigan Daily Survey to Participate in Focus Groups
The Michigan Daily would like Ann Arbor community members to complete a survey and consider participating in a focus group, to improve their service to our community and make their coverage as equitable as possible.
Community Input on Accessory Dwelling Units sought for March 2nd Planning Commission
The City of Ann Arbor Planning Commission will be considering proposed amendments to the existing Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) ordinance on Tuesday, March 2nd.
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. This post has been updated with City postcards sent to nearby residents.
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.
DDA People Friendly Streets virtual meetings Mar 9th,10th,11th
The DDA is holding public engagement sessions for the next round of People-Friendly Streets projects.
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.
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 Mar 1, 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-1 (21-0414) Agenda Response Memo and eComments – March 1, 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 (21-0275) Appointment – Confirmations
These nominations from the Mayor were introduced at the previous Council meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this 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
MC-2 (21-0390) Nominations and Appointments for March 1, 2021
These nominations from the Mayor are being introduced at this Council meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next meeting.
- Kinsey Button – Commission on Disability Issues
- Janis Bobrin – Huron River Watershed Commission
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 (20-1471) Resolution to Approve an Agreement between the City of Ann Arbor and the Malletts Creek Drain Drainage District through the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office for the Malletts Creek/Churchill Downs Park Detention Pond Project ($3,050,000.00)
CA-2 (21-0208) Resolution to Approve a Construction Contract with Inland Water Pollution Control, Inc. for the Swift Run Sewer Lining Project ($ 868,772.50) (ITB 4651)
CA-4 (21-0328) Resolution to Authorize the Operation of Sidewalk Cafes and Accept the Responsibility of Enforcing Compliance Within MDOT Rights of Way
CA-5 (21-0337) Resolution to Approve Amendment No. 1 to the Tyler Technology Agreements for Land Management and Permitting Software, Amend the FY21 Budget and Appropriate Necessary Funds ($139,563) (8 Votes Required)
CA-6 (20-1813) Resolution to Approve Schedule 35 to the Interagency Agreement for Collaborative Technology and Services for Support Services for the Dell EMC Avamar and Data Domain Backup Environment with Washtenaw County
CA-7 (21-0353) Resolution to Recommend Approval of Issuance of a Downtown Development District Liquor License to Up From the Skies, LLC
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/DC-3 (21-0397) Resolution Establishing the Fee to Cover the Cost of Annual Investigation and Review of On-Premises Liquor Licenses for 2021
The annual permit application fee to cover the cost of investigation and review of a Liquor License is established at $50 for the year 2021. (The fee was previously set at $90.)
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 (21-0050) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Rezoning of 6.58 Acres from R4A (Multiple-Family Dwelling District) to PL (Public Land District), Oakwoods Nature Area Addition, 3382 Green Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 9 Yeas and 0 Nays)
An area of 6.58 acres at 3382 Green Road will be rezoned from R4A (Multiple-Family Dwelling District) to Public Land District and added to the Oakwood Nature Area.
C-2 (21-0051) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Rezoning of 8.48 Acres from R1A (Single-Family Dwelling District) to PL (Public Land District), Ruthven Nature Area Addition, 3301 Geddes Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 9 Yeas and 0 Nays)
An area of 8.48 acres at 3301 Geddes Road will be rezoned from R1A (Single-family dwelling district) to Public Land District and added to the Ruthven Nature Area.
C-3 (21-0170) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Zoning) of 1.55 Acres from TWP (Township District) to R1A (Single-Family Dwelling District), 2511 Newport Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 9 Yeas and 0 Nays)
An area of 1.55 acres (previously annexed into the City) will be rezoned from Township district to R1A (Single-family district).
C-4 (21-0247) An Ordinance to Amend Section 1:271(4) of Chapter 12 (Financing Local Public Improvements) of Title I of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor
City Code will be amended to reflect the City’s exceptions for use of Sidewalk Millage funds. Sidewalk Millage funds may not be used to relieve the obligation of developers to build new sidewalks as part of new construction or redevelopments. Sidewalk Millage funds will also not cover the cost of new sidewalks on tax-exempt parcels.
C-5 (21-0352) An Ordinance to Add Chapter 122 (Fair Chance Access to Housing) to Title IX of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor
Criminal history will not be permitted as a determining factor in access to rental housing. An application for rental housing shall not require an applicant to disclose criminal history or authorize release of criminal history. I wrote more about this in 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 (21-0358) Resolution to Waive Attorney-Client Privilege on Advice Regarding Council Rules
Attorney-client privilege will be waived on two legal memos (sent to Council on 1/30/21 and 2/8/21) on the topic of First Amendment issues and Council Rules amendments. Privilege is waived so that advice can be reviewed by local representatives from the Americans Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
DC-2 (21-0377) Resolution Requesting an Evaluation of the Feasibility of a Revised Development for 2857 Packard Road
The City Administrator, City Attorney, and Parks Advisory Commission are directed to evaluate the preliminary feasibility of alternative development of 2857 Packard Road. The property is currently the subject of a Consent Judgement but the property owner is now in discussion with THRIVE Collaborative about an alternative development. Council asks for a proposed process for considering an alternative development and enough information to determine what is in the best interests of the City.
DC-3 (21-0397) Resolution Establishing the Fee to Cover the Cost of Annual Investigation and Review of On-Premises Liquor Licenses for 2021
This is the same as PH-1 above.
DC-4 (21-0388) Resolution to Award a 5-Year Service Contract to Recycle Ann Arbor for the Residential Customer Recyclables Collections (estimated $7,039,862.40) with City Option for one 2-Year Extension (estimated additional $3,043,149.60) (ITB 4623)
The City would enter a five year service contract with Recycle Ann Arbor (RAA) for collection of residential customer recyclables. The estimated cost for these services is $7,039,862.40 with an option to extend for two years (estimated additional cost of $3,043,149.60).
DC-5 (21-0421) Resolution to Improve Winter Sidewalk Maintenance
This resolution directs the City Administrator to realign City policies, procedures, and budgets to ensure the winter maintenance of the municipal sidewalk network, with the immediate goal to eliminate snow piles in crosswalks, sidewalk ramps, and on crossing islands that impede access to bus stops. The City Administrator is directed to “pilot solutions” on major transit corridor(s) and in the DDA.
This week, I’m excited to see C-5 on our agenda, which I first learned about almost two years ago. It’s satisfying to see the results of advocacy in our community!
Shortly after I was elected, a Ward 4 resident told me a personal story about discrimination in rental housing. He showed me applications that landlords ask prospective tenants to complete, including specific questions about past criminal convictions. He described how landlords in town use the answers to these questions to automatically reject prospective tenants, before learning anything more about the person behind the application. Other municipalities have recognized that this kind of discrimination is a significant barrier for people who need stable housing; these municipalities have addressed it via ordinance. The end of a prison sentence should be a new beginning for the person experiencing it. It is in the public interest for people to leave prison and move forward in a positive way, as a contributing member of our community. We make that transition much more difficult when we systematically exclude people with criminal convictions from all rental housing.
When I brought this issue to City staff, I was told that it was a topic for the Human Rights Commission to consider, so I helped connect my constituent to that commission. In 2019, when I was appointed as a Council liaison to the HRC, the Fair Chance Ordinance was then in the middle of review and discussion. City legal staff, local advocates, and HRC commissioners have done the hard work of crafting this ordinance and I am proud to cosponsor it this week with CM Travis Radina. I believe it is a wonderful example of how our residents can help elected officials identify problems in the community and craft policies that reflect our local values.
In the last month, I have begun work on another rental housing issue, prompted by advocacy from local residents. Recently, leadership from the Graduate Employees Organization contacted me, to talk about our leasing ordinance and changes they would like to see.
The Ann Arbor rental market is extremely challenging for people who need housing near downtown/campus; many tenants are competing for a limited number of units. Given market pressures, landlords are able to collect deposits and assign leases many months before the terms of a lease would begin (i.e. many months before the tenant would actually move into the housing unit).
The GEO and other local leaders would like to change this part of our City ordinance:
[A] landlord of residential premises shall not:
Enter the leased premises for the purpose of showing the premises to prospective tenants until 70 days of the current lease period has passed; or
Enter into an agreement to rent the leased premises to another tenant for a subsequent lease period until 70 days of the current lease period has passed.
This provision is meant to address the pressures of our rental market, the vulnerability of tenants asked to make early lease commitments. However, graduate and undergraduate student leaders tell us that the “70 days” described in our current ordinance is grossly inadequate.
Tenants are often asked to renew a lease (or told that their apartment is subject to visits/tours from future tenants of the next leasing term) a little over two months into a twelve month lease. Current and potential tenants are pressured to sign rental agreements (assuming thousands of dollars in liability) far in advance of the actual leasing term, well before anyone might be certain about their future housing needs or preferences. If a tenant’s circumstances change, transferring a lease is subject to approval by the landlord; tenants risk more liability when they sublease an apartment to someone else who might cause damages or fail to pay.
This situation becomes an equity issue when access to housing depends on a person’s ability to make large financial commitments – in both deposits and future liability of the contract – so many months before a leasing term even begins. The risk of signing these early lease agreements is much higher for people with less means.
I’ve gotten good background on this issue directly from City staff who enforce our rental ordinances, City attorneys, local tenants and local landlords. It was suggested to me that this concern – like the Fair Chance Ordinance – might be an appropriate topic for the Human Rights Commission to consider, so I’ve asked that it be discussed there. I look forward to working with local advocates to craft better policy that helps our local renters and reflects our local values.
The link below is a good place to learn more about the impact of this issue and sign a petition to support efforts to reform city policies:
Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!