Ann Arbor City Council Newsletter (March 3, 2019)

Mar 3, 2019 | Newsletter

Hello neighbors!

This week on Ann Arbor City Council, we have a relatively short consent agenda, presentation of names for appointment to the Independent Community Police Oversight Commission, one public hearing, a resolution about solar energy, and a resolution about allocation of the millage rebate.

Before I jump into my summary of items on the agenda, I’d like to invite you to my coffee hours today (Sunday) from 3-4:30 p.m. at RoosRoast on Rosewood. I hope this is a convenient opportunity for us to meet in person and hear perspectives.

A2ELNEL coffee hours Mar 3 2019

Council Caucus

I have exciting news about yet another opportunity to share concerns: 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!

The public is invited to a Council Caucus this Sunday, March 3rd. Directions will be posted on the exterior doors of City Hall.

Council Caucus
Sunday Mar 3, 2019 (7:00-9:00 PM)
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. CM’s Griswold, Bannister, Nelson and Eaton have confirmed for March 3, and others may be joining as well. 
  • Children welcome. (Books and crayons provided.)

If there is public interest, then the caucus sessions will continue on the Sunday before regular Council meetings. 

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

Website Updates

In addition to writing this newsletter, I post regular 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. I occasionally .

Below are links to stories I posted or updated since the previous newsletter. You can see a listing of all my posts here:

City Council News

Council Caucus Sunday Mar 3rd 7pm

FOLLOWUP: Police Oversight & Accountability

City Council Voting Chart for Feb 19, 2019

Ward 4 News/City News

Mar 13th workshop for Seventh/Scio Church and Seventh/Stadium intersections

Resident Requested Traffic Calming Studies

Mar 21st Scio Church Traffic Calming meeting

Scio Church Service Drive Traffic Calming Meetings (DATE UPDATE)

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:

Volunteer Boards and Commissions  Membership on these 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)

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.

Ann Arbor City Council Meeting
Monday March 4, 2019 7:00pm

The full agenda in PDF format (along with links to each proposed ordinance/resolution) can be found on the A2Gov Legistar website here:

If you have comments about any of these issues, feel free to email me.

Communications From Council

CC-1 (19-0406) Resolution to Appoint Members to the Independent Community Police Oversight Commission (7 Votes Required)
Eleven names have been submitted for appointment to the Independent Community Police Oversight Commission.  This is a communication (not subject to a vote).  The appointments will be voted on at the next meeting.

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 (19-0271) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 8 (Organization of Boards and Commissions), Section 1:210, Title I of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor to Allow Council to Waive City Employment Restriction (Independent Community Police Oversight Commission) (Ordinance No. ORD-19-05)
The ordinance creating the Independent Community Police Oversight Commission would be amended to allow appointment of current city staff who are classified as temporary employees and received fewer than seven paychecks in a given year. Seven votes of council would be required.

Unfinished/New Business

DC-1 (18-2100) Resolution to Amend the Old West Side Residential Parking District – West Mosley Street and Appropriate General Fund Unobligated Fund Balance ($1,000.00) (8 Votes Required)
An existing residential parking district will be expanded to include a stretch of Mosley Street at 309-415. The City will spend $1000 installing signs and expects additional annual revenue of $450 from new residential permit fees.  The Old West Side Association supports the change.

DC-2 (19-0389) Resolution Directing the City Administrator to Include Funding in the FY20 City Budget to Conduct the Lower Town Area Mobility Study
The city administrator would be directed to include funding for the “Lower Town” mobility study in the Capital Improvement Plan for Fiscal Year 2020. This $649,478 expense was postponed twice, negotiated down, and most recently failed to pass when it did not meet the 8-vote requirement as an amendment to the current budget (2/19/19).

DC-3 (19-0395) Resolution Regarding the City of Ann Arbor’s Spending of Proceeds from the 2017 Washtenaw County Mental Health and Public Safety Millage
This would nullify the previous Council’s resolution of intent from September 18, 2017 regarding allocation of county millage rebate funds. The City Administrator would be directed to create a “blank sheet” for allocation of the millage rebate funds, pending survey results. See my “Additional Thoughts” below.

DC-4 (19-0394) Resolution Requesting the City of Ann Arbor to Develop and Adopt a Solar Access Ordinance
In consideration of previously stated goals re: the development of solar energy systems, the City administrator, City Attorney, Office of Sustainability and Innovations, and Energy and Planning commissions would develop a “solar access ordinance” for possible adoption at the County level. Such an ordinance would contemplate how boundaries, permits, and easements might regulate and protect property owners’ access to solar rays in support of solar energy systems. The Energy Commission approved this unanimously.

DS-1 (19-0243) Resolution to Approve Street Closings for the Ann Arbor Marathon Running Event – Sunday, March 24, 2019
Streets will be closed on March 24, 2019 from 3:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for the Ann Arbor Marathon Running event. A map of street closures can be found at the legislation link.

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.

Ann Arbor City Council consent agenda Mar 3 2019

Additional thoughts…

Since the last meeting, I have received quite a lot of emails about allocation of the county millage rebate funds. A resolution on the agenda this week asks us to “nullify” a resolution from 2017, passed by a previous council. I plan to oppose this resolution, primarily because it affirmatively rejects information that I find relevant to our decision making process. 

I have heard a number of people use the word “promise” to describe the 2017 resolution to allocate county millage rebate funds toward three purposes: pedestrian safety, affordable housing, and climate change action. I appreciate that, for many advocates, the news of this commitment was very exciting and very satisfying in 2017. Current discussion that revisits the issue is frustrating to many – in some rhetoric, current council is characterized negatively as “breaking a commitment” or “governing by survey.” As a new Council member, I find this concerning and also misleading.

Exceptional circumstances

The rebate attached to the County Mental Health and Public Safety Millage was unprecedented. Never before had a county millage been structured in this way: local municipalities receiving funds untethered as to purpose, but connected to a county millage with clearly stated purposes. Of the seven municipalities that received this rebate of untethered funds, only Ann Arbor actually passed a resolution of intent (the “promise”) ahead of the public vote. This original resolution is what led to significant misunderstanding.

This resolution was non-binding, but it seems that many in our community did not understand it that way. Typically, we recognize millage funds to be firm and regular commitments of funds with specific allocations as to purpose; this was not true for the rebate funds. The combination of millage, rebate, and the 2017 resolution naturally led to confusion. A significant number of voters were completely unaware of the resolution; for these people, the ballot offered no indication that allocations were “promised” or that any of the funds were committed to goals other than community mental health or public safety.  

We find ourselves in a remarkable and unusual situation not because current members of council are failing to follow through on a “promise.” New members of council are in a difficult set of circumstances based on decisions made long before we assumed office. In the other six municipalities that received this rebate, elected leaders recognized that the funds were entering local budgets untethered as to purpose, and allocation decisions would have to happen in the context of a regular budget process, among the leaders in office during that process.

2017 Resolution Vs. Survey

I supported a survey to collect more public input around the spending of the millage money. The confusion and frustration around this issue is very much connected to what people were led to believe before they voted and what they were surprised to learn after they voted. I understand that community groups sent out emails and other communications about the 2017 resolution. I also understand that a lot of community members did not expect allocations that were not described clearly on the ballot. For me, this survey adds one more data point to our discussion about what our community supports re: use of the millage rebate. It is far from the only data point.  

I plan to vote against this week’s resolution to set aside the 2017 resolution. I do not and will not endorse an approach that ignores the history of public conversation around this issue. I support the goals of the 2017 resolution but I strongly disagree with how it was injected into public discussion and promotion prior to the vote on the millage. City council is now forced to reconcile two very different understandings of a public vote. For me, the 2017 resolution is relevant, but only insofar as our community actually supports it. Rebate funds will be allocated as part of current budget decisions, among current council members.

I appreciate the many emails I have received on this topic.  It helps to hear from all of you!

Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!
Elizabeth Nelson