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 meeting agenda is fairly long: five public hearings and three first readings for ordinance changes (a rezoning and changes to dog licensing and snow removal enforcement penalties). The legal department has recommended changes to the Fair Chance Ordinance, so it will not get final approval this week (see explanation in PH-3/B-3 below).
Residents of Ward 4 should pay special attention to a contract in the Consent Agenda (CA-2) that will replace water mains on several streets in the Dicken neighborhood. This contract was on the agenda of our last meeting and pulled, in response to questions to the agenda. It returns to our agenda this week, unchanged. I encourage anyone with an interest in how we choose contractors to read this week’s questions to the agenda and reach out to me if you have perspective to share.
The City received multiple bids for the contract in CA-2 and those bids were reviewed by staff; the specific contract in this agenda was preferred and recommended by staff. We have received confidential legal advice on this agenda item.
Last week, the ACLU sent a letter to members of City Council, warning us that recently approved Council rules were overly broad and vague, and compromised the First Amendment rights of Council Members. You can find the whole of that letter here:
Also last week: all of Council received additional advice from our City Attorney, and a subcommittee of Council discussed potential revisions to the rules. Based on additional advice, one of my colleagues stated in the meeting that she was “pleased” to understand that Council is empowered to censure and reprimand “for really any reason we wish.” You can read about that subcommittee meeting here:
I expect further discussion between our City attorneys and the ACLU about whether Council truly has unlimited power to officially denounce the speech of its own members. Outside of First Amendment concerns, I would argue that this is the wrong approach and (more importantly) a very predatory attitude in the context of policy discussion and community debate. My colleagues have referenced words from these newsletters as examples of speech that they would like to see subject to censure or reprimand, so the definition of “any reason we wish” has been telegraphed already. It’s concerning that anyone would be “pleased” with the dangerous idea that a majority of Council can censure or reprimand speech they do not like. I believe there is a public benefit to serious and robust policy debate among elected officials, even (and perhaps especially) when we disagree.
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 Mar 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 Mar 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.
Monday Mar 15th 7:00pm
City Council Work Session
Monday Mar 22nd 7:00pm
This is a Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget work session featuring presentations from the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and SmartZone.
Note that Council is still meeting “virtually” using the Zoom application. Video feeds of Council meetings are broadcast on CTN and YouTube. Public comment is audio only using dial-in numbers. Please check the Legistar link 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 Mar 1, 2021
South Industrial Highway Improvements: Survey due March 15th
A virtual public meeting for the South Industrial Highway improvements project was held last Thursday (March 11th) – but a public survey on the project is open until Monday, March 15th.
Community Input on Accessory Dwelling Units sought for March 16th Planning Commission
The City of Ann Arbor Planning Commission will continue to gather community input on proposed amendments to the existing Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) ordinance at its meeting Tuesday, March 16, 7 p.m.
Survey for 2021 Healthy Streets open until April 2nd
The City of Ann Arbor has launched a survey to gather input regarding the possibility of bringing back the Healthy Streets program for 2021.
City accepting nominations for Golden Paintbrush Awards until April 30th
The Ann Arbor Public Art Commission’s is accepting nominations for the annual Golden Paintbrush Award.
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
Monday Mar 15, 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 (21-0543) Agenda Response Memo and eComments – March 15, 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 (21-0390) Appointments – Confirmations
These nominations from the Mayor were introduced at the previous Council meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this meeting.
- Kinsey Button – Commission on Disability Issues
- Janis Bobrin – Huron River Watershed Commission
MC-2 (21-0459) Nominations and Appointments for March 15, 2021
This nomination from the Mayor is being introduced at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting.
- Deanna Boer – Ann Arbor Housing Commission
MC-3 (21-0554) Resolution to Appoint Mark Perry to the Airport Advisory Committee (7 Votes Required)
This nomination from the Mayor is being introduced at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting. 7 votes are required because the “appointee is not a registered elector of the City of Ann Arbor”.
- Mark Perry – Airport Advisory 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 (20-1111) Resolution to Approve a Professional Services Agreement with OHM Advisors, Inc. for Pavement Condition Rating Services ($65,800.00)
CA-2 (21-0209) Resolution to Award a Construction Contract to DiPonio Contracting, Inc. for the Dunmore, Waverly, Weldon, Hartford Water Main Replacement Project ($1,311,467.00) (ITB 4650)
CA-3 (21-0090) Resolution to Approve a Professional Legal Services Agreement with Washtenaw County for Public Defender Services ($206,305)
CA-4 (21-0309) Resolution Authorizing Water Capital Recovery Charges for 5 Maple Village Ct. ($2,696.00)
CA-5 (21-0310) Resolution Authorizing Sanitary Sewer Capital Recovery Charges for 5 Maple Village Ct. ($5,982.00)
CA-6 (21-0449) Resolution to Approve the February 19, 2021 Recommendation of the Board of Insurance Administration to Deny the Claim and Subsequent Appeal Filed by Claimant Laurie Lounsbury for a Sewer Backup Claim (CC040-20).
CA-7 (21-0395) Resolution to Approve Street Closings for the 2021 Take Back the Night/Standing Tough Against Rape (Rally and March) – Thursday, April 1, 2021
CA-8 (21-0455) Resolution to Approve Street Closings for the Dexter-Ann Arbor Run on Sunday, August 15, 2021
CA-9 (21-0458) Resolution to Approve Downtown Street Closures for Restaurant and Retail Use
CA-10 (21-0477) Resolution to Approve Amendment Number One to Temporary Employment Agreement between Abigail Elias and the City of Ann Arbor ($15,000)
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 (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) (ORD-21-01)
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.
PH-2/B-2 (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 tex-exempt parcels.
PH-3/B-3 (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. NOTE: Our legal department has recommended changes to this ordinance and they have been discussed with the Human Rights Commission. Therefore, this agenda item will not be approved at this meeting and will return to “first reading”. This public hearing is likely to take place as noticed, but another public hearing is expected at a subsequent “second reading”.
PH-4/DB-1 (21-0273) Resolution to Approve the Issa Annexation, 1.24 Acres, 201 Scio Church (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 8 Yeas and 0 Nays)
A township island of 1.24 acres at 201 Scio Church Rd. will be annexed into the city. It is within the City’s water and sewer service area and is currently vacant. Staff recommends future zoning of R2A (Two-Family District).
PH-5/DB-2 (21-0248) Resolution to Approve Lewis Jewelers Site Plan, 300 South Maple (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 7 Yeas and 0 Nays)
Approval of a site plan will permit construction of a one-story 24,529-square foot retail building with 81 parking spaces at 300 South Maple (where The Quarter was previously located). Lewis Jewelers will be one of multiple tenants. The development includes construction of a pedestrian connection (sidewalk) to Westgate Shopping Center.
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 (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) (ORD-21-01)
This is the same as PH-1 above.
B-2 (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
This is the same as PH-2 above.
B-3 (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
This is the same as PH-3 above.
New Business – Boards and Commissions
The following agenda items had public hearings as listed above.
DB-1 (21-0273) Resolution to Approve the Issa Annexation, 1.24 Acres, 201 Scio Church (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 8 Yeas and 0 Nays)
This is the same as PH-4 above.
DB-2 (21-0248) Resolution to Approve Lewis Jewelers Site Plan, 300 South Maple (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 7 Yeas and 0 Nays)
This is the same as PH-5 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 (21-0341) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Zoning of 1.2 Acres from PUD (Planned Unit Development) to R4C (Multiple-Family Dwelling), Near North Rezoning, 700 North Main Street, (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 9 Yeas and 0 Nays)
A parcel of 1.2 acres at 700 North Main would be rezoned from PUD to R4C (Multiple-Family Dwelling) to allow the site to be redeveloped with 22 townhouses. The previous PUD zoning (approved in 2009) required between 38 and 40 one- bedroom dwelling units affordable to households at or below 50% of area median income to be provided in a single building, plus LEED certification for new construction. Staff recommends rezoning to R4C.
C-2 (21-0419) An Ordinance to Amend Section 9:46 of Chapter 107 (Animals – Dog Licenses) of Title Ix of The Code of The City of Ann Arbor
Amendments to the dog licensing ordinance will allow the sale of tags with year-round expiration dates that correspond to the month of a rabies vaccination. One year and three year licenses will be sold (two year license would be eliminated). Fees remain the same.
C-3 (21-0478) An Ordinance to Amend Section 4.60 of Chapter 47 (Streets) of Title IV of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor
For the first citation of a season, the penalty for failure to comply with our snow removal ordinance would be reduced from $100 to $60. The snow removal ordinance requires making sidewalks, walks, and ramps free of snow and ice for their entire constructed width and length within 24 hours of a snowfall greater than one inch.
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 (21-0009) Resolution in Support of the University of Michigan President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality’s (PCCN) Recommendations
This resolution expresses support for the recommendation in the University of Michigan President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality (PCCN). Recommendations include reductions in emissions and goals for carbon neutrality (exclusive of offsets) by 2040.
DC-2 (21-0520) Resolution for Community Events Fund Disbursements from the FY 2021 Budget
Funding will be allocated to three public events, out of the Community Events Fund: $2,000 in costs for Standing Tough Against Rape Society to hold a rally on April 1; $5,000 in costs for a Fool Moon Event on April 9; and $31,000 in costs for the Ann Arbor Summer Festival.
DC-3 (21-0522) Resolution to Commit Marijuana Excise Tax Rebate Funds
The city administrator would be asked to receive and track revenue from Marijuana Excise Tax so that those funds can be directed in a way that “intentionally reinvests in our community, acknowledges the past harm of criminalization, and supports populations disproportionately and negatively impacted by the “War on Drugs”. See my “Additional Thoughts” section below for more information.
DC-4 (21-0524) Resolution to Acknowledge and Commend Daniel Bicknell for Longstanding Public Service to Identify and Protect Residents of Ann Arbor from Exposure to Harmful Chemicals in Ann Arbor Freshwater Sources
Dan Bicknell is commended for his activism and use of scientific and institutional knowledge to advocate for cleanup of harmful chemicals in Ann Arbor freshwater sources. In 1984, Mr. Bicknell discovered 1,4-dioxane in Third Sister Lake in Scio Township, adjacent to the Gelman Sciences, Inc. property. Since then, he has offered significant advice, support, and technical assistance to local, state and national elected oﬃcials, the Coalition for Action to Remediate Dioxane, Scio Residents for Safe Water, multiple environmental non-profit groups, and individual members of the community with respect to addressing the cleanup processes.
DC-5 (21-0483) Resolution to Amend and Restate the 5-Year General Service Agreement Between Recycle Ann Arbor and the City of Ann Arbor for the Residential Customer Recyclables Collections (estimated $7,392,746.00 as amended) with the Option for one 2-Year Extension (estimated additional $3,193,892.00 as amended) (ITB-4623)
This agenda item was approved at our 3/1/21 meeting and is coming back for amendment. The City would enter a five year services contract with Recycle Ann Arbor (RAA) for collection of residential customer recyclables. These services were previously approved with an estimated cost of $7,039,862.40 with an option to extend for two years at an estimated additional cost of $3,043,149.60. As amended, the new estimated cost is $7,392,746.00 with an option to extend for two years at an estimated additional cost of $3,193,892.00.
DC-6 (21-0532) Resolution Recognizing Transgender Day of Visibility
City Council will recognize March 31 on an annual basis as Transgender Day of Visibility by flying a transgender pride flag at City Hall, evaluating non-discrimination laws and policies, and reaffirming support and commitment to a diverse, equitable and welcoming community.
This week, I cosponsor a resolution to clarify the City’s use of Marijuana Excise Tax funds. These funds reflect a percentage of revenue received by the State, then returned to communities that permit the sale of marijuana for recreational use. Council members Hayner, Ramlawi, and I collaborated on this resolution and worked with staff (the City Administrator and City attorneys) to designate purposes and craft appropriate language. Council Members Radina and Briggs have asked to join as cosponsors.
Much has been written on the topic of our country’s drug laws: how criminalization of marijuana in particular has had a disproportionate (negative) impact on poorer communities and communities of color. Generations of families have suffered long-term consequences due to arrests and convictions that we know targeted certain vulnerable populations more than others.
In 2019, Ann Arbor City Council approved a regulatory framework for the sale of recreational marijuana, consistent with state law. State law governing this industry is appropriately significant and includes many barriers to entry. We have legalized the sale of recreational marijuana in Ann Arbor, but we have not suddenly opened up opportunities for the vulnerable populations previously harmed by its criminalization. I believe we should be intentional in acknowledging this fact. The resolution on this week’s agenda is an effort to start those conversations.
Agenda item DC-3 directs the City Administrator to receive and track revenue from the marijuana excise tax funds and allocate them in this budget (and future budgets) to “restorative and alternative strategies for public safety and community support such as:
- Emergency Services response that include mental health and substance use disorder professionals;
- Programs for substance abuse intervention, treatment and recovery support services;
- Education and enrichment programs for at-risk youth; and
- Innovation grants toward promoting criminal diversion and expungement, support for formerly incarcerated members of our community, and other criminal justice reform initiatives.”
This year, Ann Arbor will receive $476,023 in marijuana excise tax funds from the state. This money comes with no restrictions as to how it must be spent. In our budgeting process, it is categorized as ‘non-recurring’ because we do not know how much money will come to us in future years. The amount received this year is not enormous, but the resolution asks for collaboration with the County and others for matching funds and partnership.
Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!