This week, due to the Labor Day holiday, the Ann Arbor City Council meeting is delayed to Tuesday. This weekend, I will not be holding coffee hours at RoosRoast and there will be no Council Caucus. My next scheduled coffee hours will be at Brookhaven Manor on Sept 10th.
This week’s agenda includes a fairly long consent agenda, two public hearings for municipal code amendments, a PUD rezoning, more discussion of traffic reconfigurations proposed at previous meetings, and capital improvement bonds for the DDA. Please email me if you have special concerns about this week’s agenda!
I can hardly believe that the school year is about to begin! I have spent the last week doing last minute prep of my preschool classroom and squeezing in some last gasps of summer fun with my boys. Good luck to everyone who experiences this time of year as either a parent, teacher, or student anticipating a new school year!
Council Caucus will not meet this week due to the Labor Day holiday weekend. Caucus will resume Sunday Sept 15th.
For more information about Council Caucus, see the city website at:
AARP Age Friendly Communities
Earlier this month, CM Jack Eaton and I joined advocates and community leaders to meet with city staff about plans for implementation of a program that Council approved last fall: AARP Age Friendly Communities. Many elements of the Age Friendly Communities program are already recognized in our city planning and development, but formal adoption of the AARP program is exciting as a framework for prompting improvement within Eight Domains of Livability: outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information, community and health services. As the city revisits our land use master plan, it is especially important that we consider the needs of residents at all ages.
For more information about the AARP Age Friendly Communities Program and the Eight Domains of Livability, visit:
Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor
Thanks to the Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor for letting me present to one of their lunch meetings this month! I always welcome the opportunity to chat with people about our local government, how to get involved and how to be informed.
The Kiwanis Club wrote a nice summary in their Aug 19, 2019 newsletter:
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)
Road Construction Updates
It’s the season for road construction, and I post regular updates on my website about projects that affect Ward 4 residents. My posts include links to the City’s website, so that you can find more information and contact info.
For information about these and other projects, the City has a page of road and lane closures, and a page of scheduled construction projects:
Hoover/Greene Traffic Control Plan (Sept 3rd to 6th)
There will be a traffic control plan on Hoover Avenue and Greene Street this week.
Hoover/Greene/Hill Project Update Aug 26th
An update on the large construction project involving Hoover/Greene/Hill.
Additional 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 Aug 19, 2019
Greenbelt Advisory Commission public engagement session Sept 5th
The Greenbelt Advisory Commission (GAC) is leading the 2019 review of the program’s strategic plan, with opportunities for the community to provide input. Six public engagement sessions have been scheduled between July and October 2019. The third meeting is scheduled for Sept 5th.
Greenbelt Advisory Commision Public Engagement
Thursday, Sept 5, 2019 (4:30–7:00 PM)
City Hall 2nd Floor (Council chambers)
301 E. Huron St
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:
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
Tuesday Sept 3, 2019 (7:00pm)
City Hall 2nd Floor
301 E Huron St
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-2 (19-1685) September 3, 2019 Agenda Response Memo and eComments
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 (19-1547) Nominations – Confirmations
These Mayoral appointments were introduced at the previous Council meeting, and will therefore be voted on this Council meeting.
- Zachary Ackerman – Planning Commission
- Deanna Lernihan – Transportation Commission
MC-2 (19-1669) Appointments & Nominations
These Mayoral appointments are being introduced at this Council meeting, and will be voted on at the next Council meeting.
- Mary Casey – Recreation Advisory CommissionStephanie Dooper – Recreation Advisory Commission
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.
CA-1 (19-1580) Resolution to Release Part of a Utility Easement Recorded in Liber 3920, Page 887, Washtenaw County Records, and Accept a New Public Utilities Easement at 2040 Federal Blvd (8 Votes Required)
CA-2 (19-1589) Resolution to Authorize Revised Purchase Agreement and Agreement for Temporary Occupancy Restrictions Pending Sewer Service for 1146 South Maple Road (8 Votes Required)
CA-3 (19-1608) Resolution to Accept a Variable Width Pedestrian Easement at Kingsley Condominiums from Kingsley Condominiums LLC (8 Votes Required)
CA-4 (19-1609) Resolution to Accept a Pathway (Treeline Trail) Easement at Kingsley Condominiums from Kingsley Condominiums LLC (8 Votes Required)
CA-5 (19-1607) Resolution to Submit Renewal Proposal and Application to the USDA FY 2020 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), in Partnership with Washtenaw County, Legacy Land Conservancy, and Others, to Secure up to $1,000,000.00 in Additional Federal Grant Funding for Conservation Easements
CA-6 (19-1458) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order to DLT Solutions, LLC for Three-Year Autodesk Software Subscription ($52,089.72)
CA-7 (19-1550) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order to Bellefeuil, Szur and Associates, Inc. (“BS&A”) for Annual Software Maintenance and Support for FY2020. ($27,295.00)
CA-8 (19-1367) Resolution to Renew and Amend the Current Agreement with Psybus, P.C., for Additional Professional Psychological Evaluation Services for the Ann Arbor Police Department Employees ($27,795.00)
CA-9 (19-1476) Resolution to Approve Purchase Order with On Duty Gear, LLC for the Purchase of Concealable Body Armor ($70,875.00)
CA-10 (19-1229) Resolution to Approve Revised Bylaws of the Public Art Commission
CA-11 (19-1489) Resolution Authorizing a Purchase Order to Washtenaw County for the City of Ann Arbor’s FY20 Share of the Maintenance of the Shared 800 MHz Simulcast System ($25,600.00)
CA-12 (19-1490) Resolution to Authorize a Sole Source Purchase Order to Siemens Mobility, Inc. for Eagle Traffic Control Products in the Amount of $468,000.00
CA-13 (19-1491) Resolution to Authorize a Purchase Order to Carrier & Gable, Inc. for Traffic Control Materials and Supplies ($397,000.00)
CA-14 (19-1495) Resolution to Award a 3-Year Contract for Water Main Line Stops and Insertable Valves to Watertap, Inc. ITB # 4588 (up to $175,000.00/annually; $525,000.00 for three years)
CA-15 (19-1545) Resolution Supporting a Grant Application to the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission Connecting Communities Program for Treeline Alignment Study from Argo Pond to 721 N. Main
CA-16 (19-1460) Resolution to Award a Construction Contract to Lester Brothers Excavation, Inc., for As-Needed Directional Boring ($175,644.00, Bid No. ITB-4590)
CA-17 (19-1461) Resolution to Award a Construction Contract to Erie Construction, LLC. ($79,556.00) for the Wetland Mitigation at Leslie Park Golf Course Project (Bid No. ITB-4591)
CA-18 (19-1462) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of Survey Equipment from Leica Geosystems, Inc. (State of Michigan MiDeal Contract 171180000000005, $54,423.55)
CA-19 (19-1487) Resolution to Authorize a Professional Services Agreement with Orchard, Hiltz & McCliment, Inc. (OHM) for the Lower Town Area Mobility Study (RFP No. 18-21) ($579,478.00)
CA-20 (19-1469) Resolution to Approve Construction Contract Change Order No. 1 with Gerace Construction Company, Inc. for the Barton Dam Air Shaft Repairs Project ($74,900.00) and to Appropriate Funding (8 Votes Required)
CA-21 (19-1544) Resolution to Award a General Services Agreement for Removal of Water Treatment Plant Residual Limestone to Prolime Corporation, Bid No. ITB-4594 (estimated $325,600.00/yr)
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 (19-1223) An Ordinance to Amend Section 5.15, Table 5-15 and Section 5.16.6 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Office District Permitted Uses, Accessory Restaurant/Bar/Food Service Use Specific Standards)
The city Unified Development Code would be amended to allow accessory restaurant, bar, and food service use in the O (Office) district, up to 10% of the total floor area of the site or 12,000 sq. ft. An earlier draft of this amendment (first requested by Oxford Properties) would have provided this allowance to only two privately held properties, both of them at S. State Street Commons (owned by Oxford). Staff developed this amendment to apply to all buildings zoned O.
PH-2/B-2 (19-1225) An Ordinance to Amend Section 5.17.4 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Mixed Use Zoning District Dimensions) (Ordinance No. ORD-19-28)
The city Unified Development Code would be amended to correct an error and clarify the standards in the mixed use zoning districts (C1, C1B, C2B, and C3). A maximum front setback is currently blank in Table 5:17-4 and references footnotes B, C, and G. The maximum front setback on the table should indicate 25 feet and reference footnote A. Maximum front required setback in C1, C1B, and C2B districts should also refer to footnote A.
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 (19-1223) An Ordinance to Amend Section 5.15, Table 5-15 and Section 5.16.6 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Office District Permitted Uses, Accessory Restaurant/Bar/Food Service Use Specific Standards)
This is the same as PH-1 above.
B-2 (19-1225) An Ordinance to Amend Section 5.17.4 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Mixed Use Zoning District Dimensions) (Ordinance No. ORD-19-28)
This is the same as PH-2 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 (19-1464) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Zoning), Rezoning of 7.7 Acres from R1E (Single-Family Dwelling District) With Conditions to PUD (Planned Unit Development District), Weber Rezoning, 2857 Packard Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 7 Yeas and 1 Nays)
A 7.7 acre parcel at 2857 Packard Road would be rezoned from R1E (residential, single family) to a PUD (Planned Unit Development) to allow fifty-one total units, with 26 of these units located in four, two-story townhouse style units on one parcel. The proposed density would be seven dwelling units per acre, each proposed house a maximum size of 2,000 square feet, with prohibition to finishing the basements. (A grading permit is required before removal of an existing house on the property, to allow more time to explore moving the house.) A previous site plan for this property was rejected due to its negative impact on natural features. As compared to the previous site plan, this PUD will preserve 42 landmark/woodland trees and maintain 4.4 acres of open space. The Planning Commission approved this PUD Rezoning in a vote of 7 to 1.
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 (19-1549) Resolution to Appoint James Summers to the Transportation Commission (7 Votes Required)
7 votes are required because the nominee is not a resident of Ann Arbor.
DC-2 (19-1660) Resolution to Publicly Release Redacted Report of Investigation by Attorney Sheldon Stark Dated July 31, 2019
Council would approve public release of the report produced by Sheldon Stark, regarding the supervision of Robyn Wilkerson’s employment as the city’s HR director. The report has been redacted to protect the anonymity of city staff.
DC-3 (19-1496) Resolution Approving a Contract with Harvest Solar, LLC to Purchase and Oversee Installation of Solar Panels on Fire Station 6 ($73,710.00)
A contract with Harvest Solar will result in installation of solar panels at Firehouse 6 (1881 Briarwood Circle). The city will pay $73,710 for the purchase of solar panels and oversight of installation, which will be done by professionals with the assistance of community volunteer labor. This investment is expected to save the city $7,500 annually in electrical costs, in addition to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions over time.
DC-4 (19-1681) Resolution to Advocate for the Expansion of State of Michigan Recycling Grants
The city urges the state of Michigan to expand grant programs to third parties that would promote recycling among citizens, build recycling infrastructure, and contribute to the research and development of recycling end markets. These grants are necessary because the market price of recyclable materials has dropped significantly, causing many municipalities to divert recyclable materials to landfills. The city of Ann Arbor would communicate to the Governor and our state senator and representatives that the FY2019 end-market development grant program funding of $2 million (with a maximum grant amount of $500,000) is insufficient and should be increased.
DS-1 (19-1466) Resolution to Approve a Professional Services Agreement with SDS Global Enterprises, Inc. for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan Services ($161,000.00)
This is a two-year contract for $161,000 with a consultant, in support of the county-wide One Community initiative to advance racial equity in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County. City Council passed a resolution last summer (7/16/18), directing our city administrator to implement programs in support of the One Community initiative; this contract is the result of that 2018 resolution.
DS-2 (19-0956) Resolution to Proceed with a Road Reconfiguration Pilot for Traverwood Drive, from Huron Parkway to Plymouth Road
The original version of this plan (passed on 8/5/19) would have reconfigured
Traverwood Drive (from Plymouth Rd. to Huron Parkway) to narrow lanes, create a bike lane, and add street parking. That plan would have narrowed vehicular lanes to 10’ and reduced the number of vehicular lanes from three to two. Parking and a northbound bike lane would have been added. This resolution was re-considered on 8/19/19 and postponed. The current plan has been amended to remove the additional parking and make room for a southbound bike lane.
DS-3 (19-1617) Resolution to Proceed with a Road Reconfiguration Pilot for Green Road, from Burbank Drive to Plymouth Road
This proposal was rejected by City Council on 8/5/19 and returned to the agenda for reconsideration on 8/19/19 but withdrawn. This modified plan would reconfigure Green Road (from Burbank Drive to Plymouth Rd.) to narrow lanes, reduce lanes, and create buffered bike lanes. One lane would be removed between Burbank Drive and Commonwealth Boulevard (reducing from four to three lanes). One northbound lane would be removed between Plymouth Road and Burbank Boulevard (reducing lanes from two to one). The previous plan has been modified to add a right turn lane northbound, turning onto Burbank. Lanes would be narrowed between Burbank Boulevard and Plymouth Road to maintain a buffered bike lane.
DS-4 (19-1224) Resolution Authorizing Summary Publication of Ordinance No. 19-27 – An Ordinance to Amend Section 5.15 and 5.16.6.L of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Office District Permitted Uses, Accessory Restaurant/Bar/Food Service Use Specific Standards)
With Council approval, amendment of the Office District Permitted Uses in the city code (see PH-1/B-1) will be summarized to spare expense while satisfying publication requirements.
DS-5 (19-1226) Resolution Authorizing Summary Publication of Ordinance No. ORD-19-28 – An Ordinance to Amend Section 5.17.4 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Mixed Use Zoning Dimensions)
With Council approval, amendment of the Mixed Use Zoning Dimensions in the city code (see PH-2/B-2) will be summarized to spare expense while satisfying publication requirements.
DS-6 (19-1637) Resolution Authorizing Summary Publication of Ordinance No. 19-26 – An Ordinance to Amend Sections 5.15 (Table 5-15), 5.17.3, 5.17.5 (Table 5:17-5), and Section 5.37.2 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Permitted Use Table, Parkland Donations, Dimensional Standards Table, Front Lot Line)
With Council approval, amendment of the Permitted Use Table, Parkland Donations, Dimensional Standards Table, Front Lot Line in the city code will be summarized to spare expense while satisfying publication requirements.
DS-7 (19-1566) Resolution Authorizing Publication of Notice of Intent to Issue General Obligation Capital Improvement Bonds to Fund Downtown Development Authority Ann Ashley Parking Structure Expansion Project (Not to Exceed $27,000,000.00) (6 Votes Roll Call)
General obligation capital improvement bonds would be issued by the City, to support the Downtown Development Authority’s expansion of the Ann-Ashley parking structure, not to exceed $27,000,000. Improvements would include: three additional floors of parking spaces, a new elevator, structure for pedestrian entrances, buildout under the southern portion, additional covered bicycle parking, and various electrical, lighting, stormwater infiltration, and solar charging improvements. The proposed buildout would displace 18 car parking spots and some motorcycle parking while creating 3,500-5,000 sq. feet of office suites for the DDA, and approximately 3,000 sq. ft. of public meeting space.
I published this essay on my website earlier this week
US versus THEM: The Guilty Pleasure
In our local politics, a fiction persists — despite evidence to the contrary — that there are two organized and unified “factions” on Council. This view of local government is unhelpful for many reasons, but perhaps most of all because it simplifies complex decision making as right/wrong, good/bad, and (most destructively) “us versus them.” To the extent that this model doesn’t reflect reality, our community should wonder why anyone clings to it.
SEEING FACTS/IGNORING FACTS
In my campaign last summer, I tried to do my own research about Council voting to understand: was it true that members of Council were voting in blocks, did we really have majority/minority “parties” among the (almost all) Democrats on Council? My own difficulty in answering this question — vote records are embedded in longer Council meeting minutes — prompted me to make the voting charts on this website. I believe that the public should be able to see how and where their representatives have voted on issues. I had expected that my voting charts might help, also, in illustrating how and where members of Council are (or are not) voting together.
Many readers of this newsletter may have already seen the analysis of Council votes by Ann Arbor Chronicle editor, Dave Askins. Using the public record of Council voting history, Askins was able to illustrate patterns of how similarly/differently Council Members vote relative to one another. In case you haven’t seen this chart, it is linked below:
To look at the chart, there is only one cluster of Council members who vote together. There is one faction, not two. In response to this data, I have read various conspiracy theories about coordinated dissent, vote-counting, and intentional “throwing us off the scent” voting behavior. The mythology of two unified factions — most especially for the purpose of defining right/wrong, good/bad — is so strong that, for some, facts do not matter anymore.
The analysis by Dave Askins should not be surprising to anyone. One “faction” openly advertises its unity. E.g. Last summer, the Mayor sent emails across the city, organizing “days of action” in support of specific incumbents he favored for re-election. I benefited from no such coordinated effort. The Mayor used his significant email list to advertise the faction that openly promotes itself and does, in fact, vote as a block. Yet conspiracy theories persist about a second “faction”, uncoordinated and unsupported, an imaginary “faction” that does not, as a matter of record, vote together.
THE NEED TO BE INFORMED
Last spring, I was frustrated by the kind of conflict I was seeing at City Council: local leaders who, in the context of policy disagreement, eagerly attacked each other with generalities and distractions. Debate that should have been about policy detail was increasingly full of wild accusations, unrelated to the matter at hand. What pushed me to actually run for office was a conversation with a Council member who had very limited understanding of a big city issue and could only explain his position on it as one that came directly from city staff. Later, I had a similar conversation with another Council member, who described more generally how Council simply follows direction from staff. It was clear to me: at least some Council members felt no need to actually understand and consider all the issues before them.
Our city government relies on the expertise of professional, full-time staff to advise us and recommend alternatives toward best practice. City staff help us understand what options are available/allowable and identify the advantages/disadvantages of each choice — they do a great job of providing us with information. However, I would be embarrassed if someone asked me about a position I took on an issue and my answer was that staff simply told me what to do. That is not good representation for anyone. In my newsletter, I write summaries for agenda items to clarify my own understanding of them and, hopefully, help you identify issues that might be of interest to you.
In my view, Council Members have an obligation to assess the recommendations from staff so that we can better represent Ward and city interests. If you don’t have time to watch the whole of our marathon meetings, you can see some evidence of this in the published Council questions to the agenda — the agenda responses highlight who is asking questions and who is digging deeper into the issues we vote on.
I will continue to ask questions about the Council issues before us and I will continue to vote in ways that I can defend and explain. I will continue to publish my voting charts so that you can easily see how I (and the rest of Council) voted and also ask me why. Since my election, I have held two to three coffee hours a month, in addition to attending Council Caucus the Sunday nights before Council meetings.
I’ve chosen to write about this now because I’m seeing this “two factions: one good, one bad” theme expressed by increasingly high-profile community members. It appears to be a specific and intentional strategy, to discourage serious debate and promote divisions; for some, there is comfort in having formed a team and satisfaction in concocting a definition of who is the “opposite” team.
We are an educated town, with critical thinking skills, so it upsets me to see our public discourse dumbed down in this way. It is an insult to our community when policy debate is treated like a high school sport: “teams” with cheerleaders and booing sections. I strongly believe that Ann Arbor is smarter than that; our town can choose to be informed and engaged.
We should all be asking the question: who benefits when residents are encouraged to identify enemies, imagine conspiracies, and find fault with dissent?
Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!