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 weeks’ agenda is fairly short and includes some internal Council business, assigning members responsibilities through Boards and Commissions. We welcome new members to the body and assign them responsibilities in DC-1. One item on our Consent Agenda was recently removed: CA-9 would have approved the purchase of two Tesla vehicles for the Ann Arbor Police Department but it is no longer on our agenda. There are probably other reasons for opposing this purchase, but our local Huron Valley Area Labor Federation (AFL-CIO) offered a statement of specific objection because the Tesla company creates bad health and safety conditions for workers, engages in unfair labor practices, and prevents workers from organizing a union. I raised questions about this agenda item before it was pulled.
Relevant to Ward 4, agenda item CA-1 will remove on-street parking on the north side of Scio Church Road between S Maple Road and Greenview Drive for the installation of bike lanes. On January 29, 2020, I participated in a meeting – led by City Staff – to discuss this proposal with residents. I can confess a personal interest in seeing bike lanes there — in the past, I’ve opted to bike on the sidewalk in parts of this stretch that felt unsafe, simply because there were no bike lanes. I’ve asked some questions to the agenda to clarify the resident survey of support/opposition. Note: Due to the Veterans Day holiday this Wednesday, responses to our questions to the agenda will not be published until Monday afternoon.
Local Officers Compensation Commission
I learned this week that the City has a specific need for volunteers to serve on our Local Officers Compensation Commission. This commission meets every two years to determine salaries for the Council. Appointments are for 7 year terms but the time commitment is relatively modest.
For those interested, the minutes and attachments for prior meetings can be viewed here: http://a2gov.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx
Select “List View” tab and then “All Years” and “Local Officers Compensation Commission” from the dropdown menus.
Videos of the 2017 and 2019 meetings are also available here:
Search “local officers” in the upper left search box.
For the extremely motivated, the State statute is available here:
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 Nov 15th 3:00pm
I hold “virtual” coffee hours with Zoom on Sunday afternoons before scheduled City Council meetings. Please email me for a link: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday Nov 15th 7:00pm
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 Nov 16th 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/
I maintain a list of posts related to current/recent Ward 4 construction projects:
City Council Voting Chart for Nov 5, 2020
Amesbury, Braeside, Worthington Resurfacing Rescheduled Nov 10 – 14
Mershon, Winsted Resurfacing Work Nov 16 – 23
Yeoman Court Resurfacing Work Nov 17 – 23
Detours for W Madison, S Fifth, Hill, S Division, E Hoover (Oct 26 to Nov 30)
City Budget Survey open until Nov 24th
The goal of the online-only community-wide survey aims to obtain meaningful and broad citizen input to assist staff and City Council members in developing the city’s fiscal years 2022 and 2023 budget and spending priorities.
Last compost pickup Friday Dec 11th
Seasonal curbside compost/yard waste collections will end Friday, Dec 11, 2020, and will resume in early April 2021.
City’s Housing + Affordability Survey open until Dec 14th
The City is looking for public input about affordable housing and plans for re-development of four publicly owned parcels downtown.
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 Nov 16, 2020 (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.
Agenda Response Memo and eComments – November 16, 2020
This agenda item has a PDF attachment with all questions raised by Council Members, and the answers provided by staff. Due to the Veterans Day Holiday last week, this document will not be ready until Monday, shortly before the Council meeting starts.
Communications from the Mayor
MC-1 (20-1733) Communication from the Mayor
This announces the appointment of Naomi Goldberg as the LGBTQ liaison to the Mayor. This post was previously held by Travis Radina, who was elected to City Council.
MC-2 (20-1711) Nominations and Appointments for November 16, 2020
These nominations from the Mayor are being introduced at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting.
- William Brogan – Board of Review
- Alice Owings – Board of Review 2
- Curt Zell – Board of Review 2
- Sadira Clarke – City Planning Commission
- Wonwoo Lee – City Planning Commission
- Dana Thompson – Economic Development Corporation
- Anna Epperson – Historic District Commission
- Robert White – Historic District Commission
- Naomi Goldberg – LGBTQ Liaison to the Mayor
- Areli Balderrama – Transportation 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 (20-1547) Resolution to Prohibit On-Street Parking on the North Side of Scio Church Road between South Maple Road and Greenview Drive
CA-2 (20-1578) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order to Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) for the Annual Geographic Information System Software Maintenance and License Agreement ($51,600.00)
CA-3 (20-1610) Resolution to Accept and Appropriate Michigan Supreme Court State Court Administrative Office Drug Court Grant Funds and Approve Grant Contract ($117,000.00) (8 Votes Required)
CA-4 (20-1612) Resolution to Accept and Allocate Michigan Supreme Court State Court Administrative Office Michigan Veterans Treatment Court Grant Award and Approve Grant Contract ($35,313.00) (8 Votes Required)
CA-5 (20-1615) Resolution to Accept and Appropriate Michigan Supreme Court State Court Administrative Office Mental Health Court Grant Award and Approve Grant Contract ($167,000.00) (8 Votes Required)
CA-6 (20-1621) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of Police Vehicles from Signature Ford (Macomb County Cooperative Purchasing – $293,552.00)
CA-7 (20-1622) Resolution to Approve a Grant Contract with the Michigan Department of Transportation for Work Related to the Environmental Assessment Study for the Safety Extension of Runway 6/24 at the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport ($109,517.00)
CA-8 (20-1623) Resolution to Approve the First Amendment to a Professional Services Agreement between the City and Mead & Hunt Inc. for Work Related to the Environmental Assessment Study for the Safety Extension of Runway 6/24 at the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport ($109,516.88)
CA-9 (20-1628) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of Two Vehicles from Tesla Inc. (Sole Source – $93,470.00)
(This item was deleted from the agenda on 11/13/20)
CA-10 (20-1662) Resolution to Approve Amendment No. 1 to the Personal Services Agreement with Julie Roth, for Support Related to Administering the Ann Arbor Solarize Program ($30,000).
CA-11 (20-1673) Resolution to Re-Authorize the City Administrator to Direct Purchase Natural Gas and Choice Electric for all Relevant City Facilities
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.
There are no public hearings at this Council meeting.
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 (20-1309) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 5.16.6 and 5.18.4 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Solar Energy Systems; Exceptions to Height Limits)
Two amendments to City Code will change policies around Solar Energy Systems. Currently, freestanding solar panel installations are considered accessory structures, subject to the requirement for a site plan review if larger than 240 square feet. The proposed amendment will permit solar panel installation in Multi-family, Mixed Use, Non-residential and Special Purpose districts (up to 10,000 square feet) under certain conditions without a Site Plan Review. (This amendment is prompted by a specific development proposal to expand a parking cover and create a larger surface for solar collection.) A second amendment will allow up to a 12-foot exception to district height maximums for the purpose of mounting rooftop solar panels.
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 (20-1675) Resolution to Approve 2021 Council Committee Appointments
A long list of assignments will designate new Council Members as representatives to (and sometimes voting members of) Boards and Commissions, internal Council committees, and other inter-governmental agencies. See the Legistar link for the whole list.
DC-2 (20-1676) Resolution Directing the Planning Commission to Create a Transit Supported Development District
Planning Commission would be directed to consider designation of transit-supported zoning districts to increase housing density and options along major corridors. In such districts, the commission is asked to consider increasing allowable Floor Area Ratio (FAR) density, decreasing and/or eliminating parking requirements for new development along transit corridors, requiring mixed use, decrease height and increasing setbacks near pre-existing residential areas, and evaluating development aspects, such as sustainability measures, affordable housing, and public open space – as either requirements or incentives.
DC-3 (20-1730) Resolution Accepting the Results of the 2020 November Elections and Recognizing President-elect Joseph Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris
I wrote and proposed this resolution for Ann Arbor City Council to acknowledge President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. We assert our belief that the election results of November 2020 are known, our elections have determined our representation at all levels (local, state, and federal) and our democracy requires a peaceful transfer of power without delay or obstruction. I am pleased that Mayor Taylor, CM Grand, and CM Griswold have already agreed to co-sponsor.
DC-4 (20-1754) Resolution Directing the Planning Commission to Study and Update the South State Street Corridor Plan (adopted by City Council July 15, 2013) Including Examining the Feasibility to Accommodate a Future Transit Supported Development Zoning District
Planning Commission would be directed to review and update the South State Street Corridor plan to accommodate a transit-supported zoning district and increase housing density and options. In the South State Street Corridor district, the commission is asked to consider increasing allowable Floor Area Ratio (FAR) density, decreasing and/or eliminating parking requirements for new development, requiring mixed use, decrease height and increasing setbacks near pre-existing residential areas, and evaluating development aspects, such as sustainability measures, affordable housing, and public open space – as either requirements or incentives.
This week, I have been part of many conversations about the local COVID infection rates and how we respond to stay safe. The preschool where I teach has received multiple updates from state licensing agencies, including new policies and clearer recommendations to reduce the risk of infection.
In anticipation of the holiday season, the Michigan Health and Human Services Department issued an update (10/29/20) with the following “strong recommendations for indoor social gatherings, including at Thanksgiving”:
“Because no one measure confers complete protection in a gathering, the guidance recommends that individuals take multiple steps together:
- Get together outside whenever possible. You have up to 20 times higher risk of getting sick inside.
- If you do get together inside, include no more than two households and 10 people.
- Limit time inside together—greater duration is greater risk.
- Wear a mask – take it off when you eat or drink, then put it back on. Keep six feet apart as much as you can.
- When possible, keep voices down; high volume can increase COVID transmission by 30 times
- Wash hands regularly and try to not to share utensils.”
This year, my family is celebrating Thanksgiving differently — this would have been the tenth year we hosted my sister’s family for the holiday weekend. Traditionally, we have celebrated together in Ann Arbor, but my sister and I have decided that this year it isn’t safe for her family to travel here from out-of-state.
At a meeting this week, I heard a presentation from Jimena Loveluck (Washtenaw County’s Health Officer) which included some very sobering statistics. For the purpose of contact-tracing, the County aims to reach every person who tests positive for COVID within 24 hours. This timeline has become more difficult due to the current numbers: an average of 100 positive tests per day. The percentage of positive tests (among all tests given) is steadily climbing.
The day after our last Council meeting, the University announced a plan to promote an online winter semester for students to take classes remotely. See this statement from the University of Michigan:
Like so many others in our community, I anticipated that the University was likely to take this step. On September 21, 2020, I brought a resolution to Council, asking for a meeting with University Regents to anticipate and discuss the use of empty University housing for shelter. You can find it here:
On this week’s agenda, we have a communication/update in response to that Resolution:
Student groups at the University of Michigan are now discussing this issue and I look forward to seeing their advocacy. This week, the Solidarity and Political Action Committee (SPAC) of the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) voted in support of the 9/21/20 resolution and issued a statement, which you can find here:
I am told that our City Council has very little influence on issues related to the University, but perhaps students can push for more serious discussion about the best use of housing that might otherwise be left empty.
Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!