This Monday’s Ann Arbor City Council meeting was originally planned as a closed session for our legal staff to advise us on the latest version of the Gelman Plume consent judgement. Last week, our Council Administrative Committee added another item to the agenda: a resolution to move forward with the process to hire a permanent City Administrator. Currently, Ann Arbor’s long-term Chief Financial Officer, Tom Crawford, is our interim City Administrator. This is his third time acting as interim city administrator for Ann Arbor – he has done an excellent job helping us respond to the various challenges of the last six months. If you’re interested in learning more about Tom, I interviewed him in one of my earlier “A2 COVID-19” conversations.
Since our last meeting, I have found more time to get out of my house and ride my bike with CM Jack Eaton. On our ride back from the Juneteenth Walk for Racial Justice last weekend, we got to see a more lively downtown, where streets are closed and some of our restaurants have been able to expand their serving areas outdoors. I am really happy to see people back in our city, frequenting our wonderful businesses, but please remember to wear a face mask in any place where you are physically close to people, even outdoors.
This newsletter summarizes the agenda as it exists on Sunday, June 28, 2020. I do not have any reason to believe that anything will be added to this agenda, but everyone should know: late items can be added, even on the same day as our meetings. (A number of items were added to our agenda late – on the same day – right before our last meeting on 6/15/20.) It’s always a good idea to check Legistar on the afternoon of our meetings to double-check that nothing has been added to the agenda.
City Council – Special Session
Monday June 29th 7:00pm
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
Ann Arbor Public Schools are starting to plan for 2020-21 school year
School district homepage: https://www.a2schools.org
School district COVID-19 Updates: https://www.a2schools.org/COVID-19
Reimagine Learning Framework: https://www.a2schools.org/reimagine
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 June 15, 2020
City survey about comfortable bike routes open until July 10th
The City has opened a survey about bike routes, including an interactive map to give feedback on existing or proposed bike lanes.
Free Online Water Consumption Tool Now Available to Ann Arbor Water Customers
The City of Ann Arbor is announcing the availability of AquaHawk, a free online tool which will help city water customers view and track their water consumption as well as get water alerts via email, text or phone.
Results Announced for Ann Arbor’s “I Voted” Sticker Design Contest
Winners of the “I Voted” sticker design contest were announced during the previous Council meeting.
Downtown “Healthy Streets” Closures Every Weekend Through Aug 23rd
After approval from Council, certain downtown streets will be closed every weekend from Friday 2 PM through Sunday 8 PM.
Ward 4 Construction Updates
You may have noticed many caution signs being posted around Ward 4 for local road resurfacing. These are part of the $10.6 million contract for the 2020 Street Resurfacing Project, approved by Council on April 20, 2020.
Below are the Ward 4 construction notices that I have been forwarded by City staff. Additional information is available at the City’s website:
Street Update June 10, 2020 (Barrington, Carol, Dunmore, Kent, Stephen, Waltham, Warwick, Wimpole)
A construction notice was circulated on June 10, 2020 to affected property owners/residents along Barrington Place, Carol Drive, Dunmore Road, Kent Street, Stephen Terrace, Waltham Drive, Warwick Court and Wimpole Street regarding resurfacing work.
Street Resurfacing Update May 4, 2020 (Ardmoor, Avondale, Barnard, Glen Leven, Normandy, Woodland)
A construction notice was circulated on May 4, 2020 to affected property owners/residents along Ardmoor Avenue, Avondale Avenue, Barnard Road, Glen Leven Road, Normandy Road, and Woodland Drive regarding resurfacing work.
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.
A2 COVID-19 Interview Videos (A2COVID19.com)
I appreciate that members of our community are struggling in different ways right now. Residents have different strategies for coping and adjusting to this new reality. I’ve been working on a project to explore the personal experiences of our community. I’m interviewing people I know (who are willing to share) and recording what they say. You can find my interviews as blog entries on my website, and also on my YouTube channel.
Link to all A2 COVID-19 articles on my website (videos + transcripts)
Link to my YouTube A2 COVID-19 playlist
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 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 June 29 (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
Communications from Council
Communications from the Mayor
Ordinances – Second Reading
Ordinances – First Reading
There are none of these items on the agenda at the time of this newsletter
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.
DS-1 (20-0974) Resolution to Approve City Administrator Search
The Council Administrative committee has approved a job description to be posted, a rubric for assessment of candidates, a timeline and interviewers for the position of City Administrator. If approved at this meeting, the job would be posted and promoted June 30 through July 26. The Council Administrative committee would select finalists on August 10, whose information would be publicized on August 11. Council, staff, and community members would participate in scheduled interviews so that feedback could be provided by August 21. Council would determine next steps (including negotiation with a preferred candidate) as soon as August 24. Note that this agenda item does not include an appropriation of any funds because the cost of the job search is less than $25,000.
There is a scheduled “closed session” with the following description in the agenda:
Closed session under Michigan Open Meetings Act for discussion of pending litigation in the Washtenaw county circuit court case of State v. Gelman in which the City is an intervening party.
I posted the following on my website on 6/20/2020
Fact Check on Local Elections 2020
I have been paying attention to local candidates and trying to learn about the people I might be working with on Council later this year. I’ve noticed where candidates engage with issues seriously, in a way that is factually accurate and reasonably informed. I’ve also seen (and heard) where candidates stretch the truth or simply mis-state facts in situations where they do not expect anyone to correct them. Some candidates concern me quite a lot based on their approach to public discourse.
STATE & CITY RELATIONSHIPS
Some may know that I have a very special constituent in Ward 4: our State Representative Yousef Rabhi. We are very lucky to have Yousef representing us. He’s a passionate advocate for Ann Arbor, committed to fighting for progressive values in Lansing. Yousef is someone who is also unfailingly kind and supportive of local leaders. He does not endorse in local Ann Arbor Council races, not even when one candidate was a friend from college.
Yousef understands that he has an obligation as a State Representative to advocate on behalf of our local government no matter who is eventually elected. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell recognizes this principle, too: she does not endorse local candidates competing for election, either. Representative Rabhi and Congresswoman Dingell know that politicians in higher office are often called on to represent local interests, as expressed by whoever gets elected. Ann Arbor City Council regularly votes on resolutions that specifically ask our state representatives to work on our behalf – this happened most recently with a resolution I brought, asking for changes to state policies related to our local police oversight commission.
This year’s local Democratic primary is remarkable in that one of our state elected officials has chosen to endorse multiple candidates for local office. For the first time as a state-level official, former State Representative and current State Senator Jeff Irwin has endorsed candidates in our local City Council primary races. In Ward 4, Senator Irwin’s endorsement is notable: he endorses his own stepmother, Jen Eyer. Senator Irwin does not live in Ward 4 and – despite written commitments to be more transparent about this personal relationship – none of his endorsements of Jen Eyer have ever included the explanation that she recently married his father.
Thousands of mailers, online ads and other communications promote the Irwin endorsement as significant yet do not mention the family relationship. It is unusual to see a state elected official wade into our local primaries at all, so it’s reasonable to wonder why. When directly asked how he knows Jen Eyer, Senator Irwin has said that he knows her professionally. This is a very incomplete response. When important decisions assign power and influence to specific people, family relationships are relevant context. We all understand that.
I remember what it was like to be a candidate, how exciting it was to meet so many new people, introduce myself and learn about the various issues impacting Ward 4 neighborhoods. I believe that our town wants to be a community where we respect each other, listen to each other, and care about each other. Local elections can prompt a more meaningful and constructive exchange of ideas. Campaigns are an opportunity for serious conversation about local policy when candidates are sincere about sharing perspectives and earning the trust of the community. Our campaign seasons also bring out a small number of folks who view our local contests as something more vicious and hostile, where personal attacks are fair game and “just politics.”
Personal attacks should be more shocking at this level of politics because every local candidate is someone you might bump into at the grocery store or walking down the street. Candidates are our moms and dads and sons and daughters and friends and neighbors. When political races turn personal and nasty, it means that people feel comfortable hurting members of our local community. I appreciate that tactics of character assassination are commonplace at higher levels of politics and government, but I reject those strategies in our local political sphere, where we can actually know each other and take the time to understand each other.
In 2018, our local elections turned particularly ugly, thanks to the close business associates of a current candidate for Council. Only after the primary election of 2018 – in conversation with local reporters and local leaders – did I learn just how many people participated in schemes for negative campaigns about me and several other candidates. It was eye-opening. Non-local interests spent thousands of dollars for negative campaigns coordinated by the president of Jen Eyer’s Lansing-based public relations firm, where she is a partner (“small business owner”). I encourage everyone to educate themselves about this recent history:
MLive: ‘Dark money’ attacks on Ann Arbor candidates raise concerns (Aug 5, 2018)
This year is, unfortunately, very similar to 2018: many non-local donors and business interests have funded thousands of dollars worth of glossy mailers. Given recent history (and common actors), I would not be surprised to see campaigns turn ugly again. Unfortunately, some people think that these tactics are an effective way to win local elections. Personal attacks are certainly easier than talking about the complexity of issues and the serious work of Council.
I’ve seen copy-and-paste emails that our Mayor is sending Ward 4 residents, endorsing Jen Eyer while describing the current City Council as “a difficult bunch.” This is a strange statement/insult to share without explanation. In the same emails, the Mayor also makes the bizarre claim that there is a “conservative majority” in our local government, again without explanation as to what that means.
The work of incumbents is a record that can be checked, both in public documents and in direct conversation with your representatives. Most of our votes at City Council are unanimous, but when there is disagreement, it’s an opportunity for us to explain our points of view and persuade each other with thoughtful explanation. (I publicize my votes and the votes of my colleagues because I believe that all of Council should be able to explain our choices.) I see where it is easier to make vague negative characterizations rather than point to facts. However, I believe all of our Council Members – as well as candidates for Council – should be able and willing to discuss local issues specifically and in detail.
In the last few weeks, I’ve been clued in to misinformation being spread around town. I’ve heard residents repeat completely opposite/wrong ideas about where Council Members have voted in support or opposition to a wide variety of local issues. It’s amazing to me that in a town as educated as ours, people are still confident about spreading demonstrably false information – they expect that residents will not question it (or bother to seek out the truth).
If you hear someone make broad claims like “That politician always opposes XYZ” it’s a good idea to ask what that means. It’s also a good idea to research candidates to find out what they actually support/oppose. This is true for all candidates, but for incumbents especially because there is a public record of their work. When you ask an incumbent where they stand, they can point to a record.
Lately, we have far too much political messaging that elevates hostility and misunderstanding, rather than thoughtful debate about legitimate difference on policy. In our local community, we have maximum opportunity to interact directly with political candidates and share perspectives around values and issues. Facts are available from primary sources. Since my election, I’ve compiled a whole lot of data (and links to primary sources) on this website because I believe that facts should be at the center of all our political conversations. If there are particular issues that you care deeply about, I urge you to look at candidate websites, ask direct questions, and push for substantive answers.
Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!