Ann Arbor City Council Newsletter (September 4, 2022)

Sep 4, 2022 | 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 (again) short. Highlights include a feasibility study for a municipal electric utility and support for “polluter pay” legislation at the state level. An ordinance amendment that would establish protections for tenants (Just Cause for Eviction) is on our agenda but is likely to be postponed until September 19.

Hayden House Final Report

Item AC-1 on this week’s Council agenda includes a remarkable document of research on the lives of former Ward 4 residents Robert and Erma Hayden. Robert Hayden is an historic figure best known for serving as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (a position now known as Poet Laureate of the United States) from 1976 to 1978. A Historic District Study Committee has written about the Haydens and the time they spent living in the Lower Burns Park neighborhood of Ann Arbor (1969-1994).

I encourage everyone to visit the link below to read the Historic District Study Committee Final Report for the Robert Hayden House at 1201 Gardner Avenue.

A2ELNEL coffee hours Sept 4 2022

Coffee Hours
Sunday September 4th 3:00pm
I hold coffee hours Sunday afternoons before City Council meetings. This week my coffee hours are at Roos Roast at 1155 Rosewood, meeting outdoors on the lawn.

If you can, please bring a chair – RoosRoast has very limited outdoor seating for customers and they prefer that our meeting not occupy it.

City Council Regular Meeting
Tuesday Sept 6th 7:00pm
Note that due to the Monday Labor Day holiday, the meeting will be held on Tuesday. Council Meetings are in person at City Council chambers. Public commentary is available either in person or via phone/Zoom – see the Legistar link for details.

Ward 4 People & Places You Should Know

If you pay attention to local advocacy around disability issues or you are connected to our City media and broadcasting community, you may already know Zach Damon. He is an appointed member of two City commissions: the Commission on Disabilities Issues and the Cable Communications Commission. He is an award winning professional actor and broadcaster working through our local cable channel, as well as other streaming, and social media outlets.

Since the early 1990s, Zach has been an advocate for disability issues through public speaking and media work. At the age of six, he volunteered with The March of Dimes organization and eventually became a goodwill ambassador helping to raise awareness to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. In high school, Zach was a Member of the Advisory Committee with The Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living. He also served as the Michigan Representative on the Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) with The National Council on Disability (NCD) in Washington, D.C. He spoke in front of members of Congress advocating for equal Education and Employment opportunities.

Zach Damon for A2ELNEL People & Places You Should Know August 2022

I first met Zach Damon in 2018, when I asked to be Council Liaison to the Commission on Disability Issues and I began attending and participating in their meetings. These last four years, I’ve witnessed Zach’s leadership as we’ve tackled important issues like inclusive transportation, City response to ADA complaints, and State law regarding car insurance coverage for catastrophic injuries.

The Ann Arbor Commission on Disability Issues (CODI) has evolved from a commission created and convened by Mayor Robert Harris and City Council in 1969, and maintained through the years under various names. Zach was first appointed to CODI in 2015 and he became chair of the commission in 2018. He is an enthusiastic advocate for the commission and is eager for others to participate in it. When I first asked Zach if I could include him in my newsletter, he was most excited about how it could promote and raise awareness about the work of CODI.

Zach explained, “In my opinion, the mission statement of The Commission on Disabilities Issues – ‘Committed to providing excellent municipal services that enhance the quality of life for all’ – is paramount.”

The commission meets monthly, on the third Wednesday of the month at 4pm. If you think you might be interested in joining CODI, you can apply here under “Disability Commission Application”:

Below are some important community resources/events:

Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living: Work with people of diverse abilities and disabilities to help you solve problems and achieve your goals.

The VISIONS Vendor Fair: The VISIONS Vendor Fair features a variety of exhibitors who will demonstrate the latest products and services for the blind, visually impaired and physically disabled. Electronic readers, magnifiers, support services for the blind, Braille devices, library services, CCTVs, leader dogs, and transportation services are just a few of the many outstanding services and products that will be on display. The VISIONS Vendor Fair is presented by the Ann Arbor District Library (which also serves as the Washtenaw Library for the Blind and Print Disabled) and is co-sponsored by the State of Michigan’s Bureau of Services for Blind Persons.

Outside of CODI, Zach hosts and produces an award winning television program called Ann Arbor Tonight. Ann Arbor Tonight is Ann Arbor ‘s first late night live audience, televised variety show. Written by writers from The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Seinfeld, Ann Arbor Tonight features a celebrity guest interview, world class comedians, a live band or musical performer and starts with jokes and a monologue by Host Zach Damon. You can watch episodes of Ann Arbor Tonight and learn more about it here:

Zach has lived in Ward 4 for 33 years.

Zach is a cheerleader for Ann Arbor, producing entertainment with an intentionally local focus. As a city commissioner, Zach is committed to inclusion: making sure that everyone has the most opportunity to enjoy the community we share. He is someone you should know!

To see previous “Ward 4 People & Places You Should Know”, visit: 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.

City Council Voting Chart for August 15, 2022
The voting chart I made for our most recent Council meeting. Update for August 15, 2022
My summary of agenda items of interest from our most recent Council meeting, along with articles I’ve written, articles published on MLive, links to Legistar, and CTN’s YouTube video.

Public Meeting for South Seventh Street and Greenview Drive Project (Sept 13 2022)
The City will be holding a virtual public meeting on Sept 13, 2022 about the South Seventh Street and Greenview Drive Resurfacing and Water Main Relocation Project that is scheduled for construction in April-November 2023.

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.

Ann Arbor City Council Meeting
Tuesday Sept 6, 2022 7:00pm

The full agenda (including a link to the latest published PDF agenda) is on the A2Gov Legistar website:

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-4 (22-1502) Agenda Response Memo and eComments – September 6, 2022
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 (22-1428) Nominations and Appointments for September 6, 2022
These mayoral nominations are being presented at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting.

  • Wendy Rampson – Design Review Board
  • Gabriel Harp – Energy Commission

MC-2 (22-1443) Resolution to Appoint Claire McKenna to the Energy Commission (7 Votes Required)
This mayoral nomination is being presented at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting. Seven votes are required because the “appointee is not a registered elector of the City of Ann Arbor.”

  • Claire McKenna – Energy Commission

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 (22-1463) Resolution to Approve Street Closings for the Great Lakes Medinah Shriners Convention Parade on Saturday, October 1, 2022 from 11:00 AM until 3:00 PM

CA-2 (22-1346) Resolution to Approve Street Closings for the Ann Arbor Marathon Running Event – Sunday, October 2, 2022

CA-3 (22-1461) Resolution to Approve Street Closings for the Ann Arbor Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot – Thursday, November 24, 2022

CA-4 (22-1221) Resolution to Approve a Professional Services Agreement with Metro Engineering Solutions, LLC for Architect/Engineering for the Ann Arbor Ypsilanti Broadband Conduit project, RFP 22-24 ($96,775.00)

CA-5 (22-1339) Resolution to Approve a Construction Contract with Rauhorn Electric, Incorporated for Utility Conduit Installation ($132,208.00)

CA-6 (22-1374) Resolution to Approve a Professional Service Agreement with DLZ Michigan, Inc. ($208,510.42) and Establish a Project Budget for the 2022/2023 Bridge Inspection Program ($248,000.00)

CA-7 (22-1417) Resolution to Approve a Grant Application to the USDOT’s Safe Streets for All Discretionary Grant Program for Systemwide Transportation Safety Improvements in Ann Arbor

CA-8 (22-1095) Resolution to Accept and Appropriate Michigan Strategic Funds and Approve Certified Local Government Grant Agreement for the City of Ann Arbor Old Fourth Ward Historic District Reconnaissance-Level Survey Update ($45,000.00) (8 Votes Required)

CA-9 (22-1413) Resolution to Approve Amendment No. 1 to Professional Services Agreement with LynxDx, Inc. for Medical Diagnostic Testing for SARS-COVID-2 ($90,000.00/year)

CA-10 (22-1372) Resolution to Accept a Sidewalk Easement at 425 S. Main Street from The Standard at Ann Arbor, LLC (8 Votes Required)

CA-12 (22-1458) Resolution to Approve Revised Rules (Bylaws) of the Zoning Board of Appeals and Authorize the ZBA to Elect Its Own Chair

CA-13 (22-1376) Resolution to Approve Bylaws of the Renters Commission

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 on the Agenda

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 on the Agenda

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 “first reading”. If approved, the ordinance will be voted on at a subsequent Council meeting (“second reading”), where it will also be subject to a public hearing.

C-1 (22-1468) An Ordinance to Add Section 8:531 to Chapter 105 (Housing Code) of Title VIII of the Ann Arbor City Code – (Right to Renew and Relocation Assistance)
An ordinance would grant tenants a Right to Renew a lease, subject to specific exceptions (“just cause” for eviction). Landlords would adhere to a timeline for communicating terms of renewal (or explanation of non-renewal) consistent with the Early Leasing Ordinance: tenants will receive a good faith offer to renew (or notice of non-renewal with explanation) no later than 180 days before the end of the current lease period. A tenant will have thirty days (up to 150 days before the end of the current lease) to accept/reject terms of renewal. A landlord’s failure to comply will result in payment of relocation assistance to the tenant.

This item will be postponed to September 19, so that the Renters Commission can address concerns raised by both the City’s legal department and area landlords. Additionally, Council Member Song has asked that the Housing and Human Services Advisory Board review it.

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 (22-1474) Resolution Expressing Support for Michigan Senate Bill 58 and House Bill 4314 – Holding Polluters Accountable
This resolution expresses support for Michigan Senate Bill 58 and House Bill 4314, which would hold polluters accountable. These bills would require polluters to clean up contamination they cause to residential standards and restore affected aquifers to drinking water standards, unless meeting those standards would be technically infeasible. Council’s support for these bills would be communicated to any relevant party.

DS-1 (22-1380) Resolution to Approve a Professional Services Agreement with 5 Lakes Energy, LLC to Complete a Feasibility Study Regarding Creation of a Traditional Municipal Electric Utility and an Evaluation of Other Energy Pathways to Achieve the City’s Clean Energy Goals, Along with Initiation of Next Steps to Advance a Local Municipal Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) ($458,797) (8 Votes Required)
If approved, Ann Arbor would hire 5 Lakes Energy, LLC to complete a feasibility study for a municipal electric utility, other pathways, and next steps for initiation of a sustainable energy utility (SEU). The Office of Sustainability & Innovation has already allocated $250,000 to this task, but an additional $208,797 is required for the professional services contract ($458,797 plus $45,879 contingency).

Additional thoughts…

I also published this on my website:

Moving Forward With Right To Renew

Agenda item C-1 is the draft ordinance for Right to Renew (“Just Cause” for eviction). This policy was first introduced on a Council agenda in July 2021 and a draft ordinance was sent to City attorneys again in March 2022. In April, I wrote a summary of local efforts to approve this ordinance:

Earlier this summer, the City’s Renters Commission began meeting. The Commission identified Right to Renew/Just Cause policy as a top priority and scheduled special meetings to discuss it. Since July, the Commission has met publicly four times, plus sub-quorum meetings in between. A draft ordinance – as approved by the Renters Commission – was included on our last Council agenda (August 15). Action was delayed then, while we waited for review and response from the City attorney’s office. I wrote about it in my last newsletter:

In response to advice from City attorneys (sent Aug 26) and feedback from local landlords, the Renters Commission plans to revisit this draft in order to make changes. At the August 15th Council meeting, some Council members also raised questions about how this policy might be implemented for the benefit of tenants in affordable housing and its potential impact on housing subsidies and vouchers. Since that meeting, Council Member Song asked that this ordinance be reviewed by the Housing and Human Services Advisory Board (HHSAB). The chair of the Renters Commission has offered to present to an HHSAB meeting later this week to satisfy that request. For these reasons, C-1 will be postponed to the Council meeting on September 19.

I have been discussing a Right to Renew/Just Cause for Eviction policy with community stakeholders since the spring of 2021. In May 2021, I spoke with Jennifer Hall about how our Affordable Housing Commission managed leases, whether a right to renew would be problematic for her department’s management of subsidized housing in the City. Ms. Hall emphasized that tenants in affordable housing are already protected from arbitrary evictions or non-renewal of leases, that the goal of affordable housing is to keep people housed rather than evict them.

I tried to clarify this issue in questions to the Agenda this week

Question: Are tenants in subsidized affordable housing units in Ann Arbor ever subject to an arbitrary non-renewal of a lease? Are tenants in subsidized affordable housing units in Ann Arbor ever subject to non-renewal of a lease under terms that aren’t already described in this ordinance as “just cause”? (Councilmember Nelson)

Response: The AAHC has 10+ different state and federal (and local) regulatory restrictions on our programs and they are all different. Our initial response is that the AAHC does not engage in either practice. To the extent there are other subsidized affordable housing units not administered by the AAHC, it is possible that this occurs. To answer whether other subsidized affordable housing may engage in these practices, more research is required regarding program restrictions. (Although we can provide information on program restrictions, we do not have information on actual renewal practices by other landlords.) Staff is looking into this issue further and will supplement this response.

In 2021, Jennifer Hall explained to me that tenants in affordable housing subsidized by HUD are already protected from eviction by a “just cause” policy. She shared that affordable housing subsidized by Low Income Housing Tax Credit Lease (LIHTC) also includes “just cause” protection for tenants. Below, you can read the LIHTC leasing protections that were sent to me in May 2021.

I have seen and heard a lot of frustration from tenants rights advocates who see how long it has taken Council to act on this issue. I share their frustration. For over a year now, in small meetings and phone calls I have heard my Council colleagues suggest that reasonable tenant protections were a question of compromise with landlords, or insist that this issue was not worth supporting if it required any legal defense. I believe that ABA-recommended tenant rights should not be a negotiation with profit interests. I also believe that this policy is worth fighting for (and defending).

I am cautiously optimistic that a postponement to September 19 will be the last and final delay before approval of a Just Cause for Eviction ordinance. Later this week, the ordinance will be discussed at meetings of the HHSAB and the Renters Commission, to review final adjustments to the current draft in response to concerns raised by the legal department, landlords, and Council members. If we see further delay, I encourage renters to pay close attention to the explanations and excuses offered by your elected leaders.

Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!
Elizabeth Nelson