Ann Arbor City Council Newsletter (November 4, 2020)

Nov 4, 2020 | Newsletter

Hello neighbors!

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 agenda is very short, as we all recover from a big week of important elections. I have delayed sending this newsletter because I wanted to report and reflect on results from this Tuesday. Locally, there were three city millages on the ballot, all of which passed:

  • Renewal of a 2016 millage (2.125) will fund the ongoing repair and replacement of streets, bridges, and sidewalks throughout the City
  • A new millage (.2) will cover the cost of constructing new sidewalks from 2021-2026. (Note: It will not change the obligation of developers to install sidewalks at their cost along a parcel’s right-of-way frontages)
  • A new millage (1.0) will fund building, maintaining, and acquiring housing permanently affordable to low-income households earning a maximum 60% of Area Median Income and social services to support those units (2021-2041).

Barrier Busters
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:

A2ELNEL coffee hours Nov 2020 Election Day

Virtual Coffee Hours
Due to the election this week, I will not be hold “virtual” coffee hours. I will resume them Sunday Nov 15th before the following Council meeting (details will be in my next newsletter).

Council Caucus
Wednesday Nov 4th 7:00pm
We have been holding Council Caucus on Sunday nights before Council meetings since March 2019. This week’s meeting is delayed until TONIGHT (Nov 4th) due to the election. 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

City Council
Thursday Nov 5th 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. 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:

I maintain a list of posts related to current/recent Ward 4 construction projects:

City Council Voting Chart for Oct 19, 2020

Detours for W Madison, S Fifth, Hill, S Division, E Hoover (Oct 26 to Nov 30)
Streets will be closed for sanitary sewer lining work necessary to maintain a high-level sewer trunkline. Work will take place primarily between 7:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays.

Granger Road Final Paving Rescheduled Oct 28 – Nov 1

Saxon, Waltham, Windsor Final Paving Rescheduled to Nov 5-7

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.

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 (

For anyone interested in understanding and analyzing the recent work of Council, I have created a resource at 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
Thursday Nov 5, 2020 (7:00pm)
Electronic Meeting

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 (20-1653) Agenda Response Memo and eComments – November 5, 2020
This agenda item has a PDF attachment with all questions raised by Council Members, and the answers provided by staff.

Communications from the Mayor

There are no board or commision nominations from the Mayor on the agenda at the time of this newsletter was published.

Consent Agenda

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 (20-1432) Resolution to Approve a General Services Agreement with West Shore Fire, Inc. for the Purchase of Self-Contained Breathing Air System Pursuant to ITB-4645 ($48,797)

CA-2 (20-1438) Resolution to Approve a Contract with All Star Power Excavation L.L.C. to Renovate the Pathway Near the Boat Launch at Gallup Park ($245,209.00)(ITB 4638)

CA-3 (20-1480) Resolution to Approve an Agreement with the Michigan Department of Transportation for the Huron Parkway RRFB Project

CA-4 (20-1495) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of 75 Streetlight Fixtures for replacement, 80 enclosures and miscellaneous electrical supplies for traffic signal maintenance and installations from Graybar Electric Company, Inc. through the Michigan Delivering Extended Agreements Locally (MIDEAL) ($62,354.03)

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.

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 (20-1485) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Zoning of 0.14 Acre from AG (Agricultural District) to R1D (Single-Family Dwelling District), 1043 North Main Street (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 9 Yeas and 0 Nays).
A property at 1043 North Main Street (0.14 Acre) will be rezoned from AG (Agricultural District) to R1D (Single-Family Dwelling District). The Planning Commission found this to be consistent with the adjacent zoning, the surrounding land uses, and the City’s Master Plan and recommended approval of the request at its meeting on April 21, 2020. 

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 (20-1637) Resolution to Further Appoint Members to the Council of the Commons
If approved, this resolution builds on past work in planning for a public property established by voter referendum in 2018. The Council of the Commons has been established as the leadership body to facilitate activities on the space, consistent with recommendations in the Task Force report. This resolution appoints specific representatives from the Community Commons initiating Committee and the Library Green Conservancy.

DC-2 (20-1640) Resolution Regarding Traffic Calming Process
A resident-driven traffic calming program (established in1999 and updated in 2018) would be updated again to expand the definition of the Project Area. If approved, this will provide notification to more residents, within a larger radius of proposed changes. Currently, only residents within 100 feet of a proposed traffic calming project will receive updates and notifications. This resolution would expand that distance to 1,000 feet, consistent with notification requirements for development projects and special exception property uses.

DC-3 (20-1642) Resolution to Approve an Amendment to the Bylaws of the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission
The Bylaws for the Art Commission would be amended to permit members of the Commission to bid on contracts for public art. Commissioners would be required to notify the Commission and staff liaisons (in writing) about any reasonable possibility of their own bid on a contract and the Commissioner must abstain from any discussion or voting related to the contract or associated project.

DC-4 (20-1654) Reconsideration of Vote to Defeat 19-1887, the “Resolution Supporting the Environmental Protection Agency’s Active Involvement with the Gelman Site and Encouraging its Listing of the same as a “Superfund” Site”
This resolution was previously considered and postponed five times (10/7/2019, 1/6/2020, 1/21/2020, 2/3/2020, 3/2/2020, 4/20/2020) before it was tabled on July 6, 2020. The resolution was untabled on October 17, 2020 and voted down. This agenda item brings it back again for reconsideration. Note: a reconsideration like this can only be brought by someone who voted with the majority— CM Ramlawi voted with the majority on 10/17/20 (in opposition) and has brought it back.

City Council would express its support of the EPA’s active involvement in cleanup of the Gelman plume and encourages the EPA to list the site of the Contamination a “Superfund” site on the National Priorities List under CERCLA. The City Administrator would convey this resolution to the Governor, soliciting a Concurrence Letter to USEPA in support of making the Gelman Site into a National Priorities List site. This resolution (and any other state concurrence) would also be sent to the Washtenaw County delegation to the Michigan Legislature, the Director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell.

DC-5 (20-1646) Resolution to Waive Attorney-Client Privilege with Respect to Certain Advice
This resolution waives the attorney client privilege regarding specific privileged and confidential advice from the City Attorney, with any prejudicial information redacted. Fourteen memos of advice are referenced, on topics related to litigation, FOIA, civilian police review, non-discrimination, conflicts of interest and ethics, zoning and site-plans (memos dating from 2008 through 2018).

Additional thoughts…

Like many others, I am cautiously optimistic about the results of our state and national elections. I am probably not alone in fearing how these results may or may not be accepted by people who do not like them and wish it had turned out differently. We face serious dangers when folks assess their own behavior by asking only “can I assert power and be in control?” rather than “is this the right thing to do?”

At this time in 2016, I was horrified by national election results but I also hoped to see an exercise of “checks and balances” in our government. That did not happen. In these last four years, we saw leaders openly embrace anger over reason, vilification of the “other,” and a divisiveness extreme enough to inspire threats of (and actual) violence. Wealthy interests hijacked political debate with campaigns of misinformation and hate: repeating and amplifying lies, effectively distorting reality for many Americans. In this environment, people in power have been able to posture righteousness while serving their own interests and those of the most privileged among us.

Our national institutions failed us because many of our leaders were too cowardly to stand up against generalized rage, focused hostility, and specific threats. Emotional, vicious impulses damage our communities generally, but are even more destructive when they infect our government. Too many leaders saw strength in alliance (no matter what), so the few insiders who did stand up in opposition to this environment were quickly targeted and forced out. Integrity had no chance against a well-funded machine.

I look forward to the return of national leadership that unifies us toward common goals, obligates the economically privileged to support the public good, and protects the most vulnerable members of our community. I’m excited for national leadership that takes the responsibility of government seriously and is competent to tackle complex issues. I am eager for a new president who can communicate his policies honestly without hurling insults, exploiting people’s ignorance, or weaponizing emotion and personal prejudices. These are minimum, basic standards for decent government and principled leadership.

At the local level, we have the power to make our own decent, principled government. When we wrestle with issues of controversy in our shared community, there is maximum opportunity to hear perspectives, understand them, and reconcile differences if we listen to each other and focus on facts. If we value serious and informed government, we can facilitate that by inviting questions (to be answered) rather than dismissing them, sharing information (to be assessed) rather than ignoring it. Locally, we should be less vulnerable to political manipulation because – no matter how often a lie or mischaracterization is repeated – relevant truths (and direct conversations with each other) are readily available. At this local level, decisions and their consequences are right in front of us for everyone to see clearly, without the distortion of political framing and posturing.

The embarrassment of bumping into someone at the grocery store should be reason enough for leaders not to engage in histrionics, personal attacks and hostility. We should all be keenly aware of how inflated rhetoric and finger-pointing can prompt dangerous behaviors, even here. Most importantly: it should be clear to everyone that our interests are more similar than different. If we choose reason over emotion, points of disagreement should never inspire anger, insults, or threats. We are a community that works together, lives together and goes to school together; none of us (much less our leaders) should aim to destroy each other. In the neighborhoods we share, there is a unique opportunity for dialogue.

The coming weeks are going to be a test of our democracy, given how many leaders have openly encouraged people to act on their very worst impulses – and exploited those impulses – recently.

Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!
Elizabeth Nelson