Andrew Cluley

Reporter

 

Like many, I first came to this area when I started school at the University of Michigan, then fell in love with the community and haven’t left. After graduating from U of M in the mid 1990’s I interned at WDET for several years, while also working a variety of jobs in Ann Arbor. Then in 1999 I joined the WEMU news team.

Find Andrew on Google + ⎮ Facebook ⎮ Twitter ⎮

While working for WEMU I’ve covered the Ann Arbor City Council and School Board beats, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti City Council and School Boards and the Washtenaw County Commissioners. Not to mention pretty much everything else in the area. I really enjoy covering local news, partly because it’s so overlooked by other media outlets. In many ways what happens at city hall or in your community school has a bigger impact on your life than what’s going on in Lansing or Washington D-C. I get the chance to track down these important stories and bring them to you every day.

When I’m not at work I love to follow sports, particularly U of M, and Detroit’s professional teams. Saturdays in the fall you can count on me watching Michigan football…and Sundays I’m probably suffering through another Lions debacle.

I also enjoy running and am proud of finishing the 2006 Detroit Marathon. Would love to run another, but I’m holding off until I think I have a realistic chance to complete one in under four hours.

Thanks for listening to WEMU and finding out a little bit more about me.

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Community
4:50 am
Tue December 17, 2013

Ann Arbor to Put Proceeds from Sale of Y Lot In Affordable Housing Fund

The City of Ann Arbor lost 100 units of low-income housing when they had to close the former YMCA building.  Now that the property at 350 South Fifth Avenue is about to be sold the city’s affordable housing will get almost $1.4 million. 

City Council Monday night voted to put all of the revenue from the sale of the property to affordable housing after covering the initial purchase price, closing and broker fees. 

Mayor John Hieftje explains that some of the funds could be used to provide some important services to help keep tenants in Miller Manor.  Hieftje adds that the city has made real progress in finding funds for affordable housing in the last year. 

The sale of the Y-Lot to Dennis Dahlmann is expected to close by the end of March.

WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on Ann Arbor City Council opting to put funds from the sale of the old YMCA property in the Affordable Housing Fund.

Community
4:42 am
Tue December 17, 2013

A2 Council Again Delays Decision on Parking Meter Removal Policy

Ann Arbor City Council has once more postponed a decision on a policy to charge developers for the removal of on-street parking meters.   Some fine tuning is expected before council votes on a policy to charge developers $45,000 if their project leads to the removal of on-street parking meters.
The proposed policy was developed by the Downtown Development Authority in response to a growing number of parking meters being removed.

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EMU
11:30 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

EMU Welcomes New Football Coach Chris Creighton [photos]

Eastern Michigan University's new football coach says he's excited to be here and passionate to work with the players.  

Chris Creighton was introduced to the EMU community at a press conference Thursday that included a pep talk by the new coach. Creighton says his goal at EMU is to win a MAC championship as soon as possible, but also to make sure they are getting everything out of the program's potential, adding that he will work his offense around what the players are most capable of doing, but wants to have a balanced attack.

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Education
2:57 am
Thu December 12, 2013

Plante Moran to Audit Ann Arbor Schools Management Processes

Early next year Ann Arbor Public Schools will have a better idea on how effective and efficient their behind the scenes business practices are. 

The School Board last night unanimously approved a contract for up to $45,000 with Plante Moran for the audit. 

Superintendent Jeanice Swift says since the board originally budgeted up to $80,000 for the audit they will be able to dig deeper into issues raised from the review or other sources.  Swift says the audit, her Listen and Learn report, and a benchmark study comparing the district to six similar districts should all be completed in late January or early February.  She says this will give the district a good 360 degree look at the health and overall function of the district.

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Education
2:53 am
Thu December 12, 2013

Ann Arbor Schools Ask State Not to Schedule Mandatory Exams on Religious Holidays

The Ann Arbor School Board has unanimously passed a resolution asking the state Department of Education to make sure mandatory tests aren't given on major religious holidays.  The resolution has also been supported by Superintendent Jeanice Swift and the Ann Arbor Arab American Parent Support Group. 

Ann Arbor Schools already have a policy prohibiting major exams and other events on three star holidays but the resolution is a response to the Michigan Educational Assessment Program exams taking place in October during Eid-al-Adha. 

School Board Member Glenn Nelson says it was more than just students that had to choose between the required test and an important holiday.  He says all of the teachers he knows that were impacted chose to stay with their students.

Nelson says they hope to speak with the State Board of Education, the state superintendent and others to ensure testing doesn't conflict with important holidays.  He says culture diversity needs to be considered for Michigan to attract people from across the globe.

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Education
5:56 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

Concerns About EMU's Link to EAA Grow

Hundreds of educators and others have signed a petition asking Eastern Michigan University to sever ties with the Education Achievement Authority.  Some of these people spoke against the partnership at Tuesday's board of regents meeting.  

Chair of the board of regents Francine Parker says administration needs to listen to the concerns and work to ensure all E-M-U students can find student teaching positions.

Steve Camron is a special education professor and chair of the College of Education Council.  Camron says the E-A-A connection is hurting E-M-U education students beyond the student teacher boycott.  He says the E-A-A's use of Teach for America Candidates with less training makes EMU grads unable to compete for teaching positions.

President Susan Martin says she is closely listening to faculty and student concerns and trying to get more information.  She says it's unfortunate E-M-U students are being punished and great educators are struggling to find student teaching positions.  Martin says the E-A-A however is one of many creative efforts to address under performing schools and it makes sense for E-M-U to be part of the effort.

The regents approved Provost Kim Schatzel's appointment to the E-A-A board.

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Education
5:49 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

EMU Approves In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students from Michigan High Schools

Undocumented immigrants that have attended a Michigan High School for at least three years will soon be able to pay in-state tuition rates at Eastern Michigan University.  The board of regents Tuesday unanimously approved the policy change that will take affect in the fall.  

President Susan Martin says hopefully more of these students that are part of our community will come to E-M-U, but it may be difficult to put a specific number on the increase.

The new policy was originally pushed by the E-M-U student government who researched options and voted in favor of this change last month.  Student Body President Desmond Miller says they estimate less than 20 undocumented students are currently studying at E-M-U and is confident that number will climb.

E-M-U now joins the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, and Washtenaw Community College to offer in-state tuition to undocumented students from Michigan high schools.

The regents also approved a policy change to give all honorably discharged or medically separated U-S Military veterans with one-year of active duty service in-state tuition.

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Community
1:47 am
Tue December 10, 2013

Ann Arbor Mayor Officially Files Veto of Changes to Crosswalk Law

Mayor John Hieftje
Credit City of Ann Arbor

Motorists in Ann Arbor still need to stop for pedestrians waiting at the curb at a crosswalk.  Mayor John Hieftje yesterday formally vetoed an ordinance amendment passed by council last week to only require drivers to stop for pedestrians already in the crosswalk. 

Hieftje says Ann Arbor's current law is safer for pedestrians than the state traffic code and laws in other Michigan cities.  Hieftje says he looks forward to other measures to increase pedestrian safety.  These will include increased education, and enforcement of the crosswalk law. 

Council would need eight votes to override the veto, but only six members voted in favor of the ordinance amendment.

WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje officially vetoing changes to the crosswalk law.

Community
1:41 am
Tue December 10, 2013

Expectations of Ann Arbor Council Members Discussed at Planning Session

What Ann Arbor City Council members expect of each other and the mayor ended up being the primary discussion item at yesterday's planning session.  Council members created a long list of expectations with most of the issues easily gaining support. 

Julia Novak of the Novak Consulting Group was the meeting facilitator.  Novak says a couple of other expectations took more discussion before all council members would agree to them.  She says this includes sharing information and efforts to make council meetings shorter.

City staff updated council on progress that has been made over the last 12 months on priorities identified at last year's planning session.  Council kept these priorities and tentatively produced new areas of focus for next year, including working on unfunded liabilities, increasing traffic enforcement, promoting work force housing, and efforts to alleviate homelessness.

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Community
7:38 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

A2 DDA to Fund All Main Street Lightpole Replacements

Credit meltedplastic / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Ann Arbor's Downtown Development Authority has resolved a dispute with City Council on the replacement of lighpoles along Main Street by agreeing to fund the entire project.  During the budget approval process in May City Council tweaked the DDA budget, leaving the city responsible for about $280,000 of the $580,000 cost to replace the poles that are rusting out at the base.  In October however City Council failed to approve funding for their portion of the project. 

DDA Board Chair Sandi Smith says this work is too important not to be completed.  Smith says the additional funds will come from money leftover from a more than decade old State Street Improvements project, and next fiscal year's budget.  She says based on how long the entire lightpole replacement project will take having the funds split between two budget years won't be a problem.

WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on Ann Arbor's Downtown Development Authority covering the entire cost of replacing lightpoles on Main Street.

Community
7:34 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

A2 Symphony Orchestra Bringing Santa in for Sing-A-Long

Ann Arbor's Symphony Orchestra holds their annual Sing-a-long with Santa concert Saturday at Bethlehem United Church of Christ.  The concert includes Christmas carols for all ages to sing along with the symphony orchestra. 

Mary Steffek Blaske  is the Symphony's executive director, or executive elf at this time of year.  She says the concert has become a fun tradition for many Ann Arbor families.

The concert  includes Santa reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas" to all of the children attending, and an instrument petting zoo before the concert begins.  The show sold out last year, but some tickets remain this year.

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Community
2:54 am
Thu December 5, 2013

DDA Waives Reimbursement for Y-Lot Expenses

Ann Arbor's Downtown Development Authority has asked the city to commit the funds the DDA spent on the former YMCA lot to affordable housing projects.  The DDA board yesterday passed a resolution to waive the reimbursement of their costs on the Y-Lot property, and encourage City Council to commit as much as possible to affordable housing as well. 

DDA Board Member Keith Orr says to make a real impact on affordable housing as much money as possible is needed from the $5.25 million for the sale of the Y-Lot.

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Transit
2:50 am
Thu December 5, 2013

Public Meeting Shows Some Support for WALLY Station at 415 W. Washingtion

Community members at a meeting on proposed sites for a downtown Ann Arbor WALLY commuter rail station supported the service coming to downtown Ann Arbor, the use of a minimal station, and for it to be located at 415 West Washington.  Many of the people at last night's meeting however continue to have questions about the overall funding and operations of the proposed commuter rail between Howell and Ann Arbor. 

Neal Billetdeaux is a landscape architect with Smith Group JJR.  He says the 415 West Washington scored highest of six possible locations because of several factors.  This includes the fact the property is owned by the city, was closest to the core of downtown, and has track at grade level on a portion of the site.

Challenges with the curvature of the track and other issues where the proposed WALLY and East-West Commuter rail lines cross make it unlikely that site could serve as a single station serving both lines and Amtrak.

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Community
5:38 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

Ann Arbor Gets Loan Extension for Former YMCA Site

Ann Arbor City Administrator Steve Powers says work on the sale of the former YMCA lot to Dennis Dahlmann continues to go smoothly.   However with the city facing a December 16th deadline to repay the $3.5 million installment purchase agreement city council has approved a six month extension on the loan. 

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Community
3:51 am
Tue December 3, 2013

Ann Arbor City Council Delays Vote on Removal of Parking Meters Policy

Ann Arbor City Council has delayed a vote on a proposed policy developed by the Downtown Development Authority to address the permanent removal of on-street parking meters.  The two-week delay is so council can hold a public hearing on the issue. 

The policy proposes a $45,000 fee per meter removed for reasons other than an overall benefit to the community. 

DDA Executive Director Susan Pollay says the policy could help the DDA work with developers to get the best possible projects for all.  Pollay says over the last few years about 150 parking meters have been removed for a variety of projects large and small.  She says the policy includes an option for developers to appeal a fee to the city administrator to review if the meter removal is an overall benefit to the community.

WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on a proposed policy to charge developers if their projects require the removal of on-street parking meters in Ann Arbor.

Community
3:47 am
Tue December 3, 2013

Ann Arbor Mayor to Veto Changes to Crosswalk Law

Credit morguefile.com

Ann Arbor's crosswalk law won't be changing despite city council approving an ordinance amendment. 

That's because last night immediately after the 6 to 4 vote, Mayor John Hieftje announced he will veto the change.  Ann Arbor's law requires motorists to stop for pedestrians on the curb at a crosswalk as opposed to the state traffic code which requires vehicles to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. Opponents of Ann Arbor's law would prefer to use the Michigan Traffic Code instead.

The difference is whether motorists have to stop for pedestrians still on the sidewalk but at a crosswalk as current law requires, or only having to yield for pedestrians in the crosswalk.

City Council member Stephen Kunselman says the veto means the poorly crafted and implemented law remains in place.

However, nearly 40 people spoke in favor of keeping the law during a public hearing.  Community members said more motorists are starting to stop for pedestrians and with better enforcement and education pedestrian safety could be further improved. 

Mayor Hiefjte believes the data doesn't show changing the law will help pedestrians.

WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on Ann Arbor City Council approving changes to the city's crosswalk law, but Mayor John Hieftje announcing he will veto the changes.

Community
2:02 am
Mon December 2, 2013

Ann Arbor DDA Board Members Visit Grand Rapids to See Downtown Ambassadors

Ann Arbor City Council asked the Downtown Development Authority earlier this year to consider paying for three downtown beat cops. 

A trip by several DDA board members to Grand Rapids, however, increased the interest by some on the DDA to instead hire downtown ambassadors. 

DDA Board member Keith Orr says ambassadors may better fit the needs of the downtown area.  He says an ambassador in uniform can increase the perception of safety and be in direct contact with police if law enforcement is needed.  He says law enforcement in communities that have hired ambassadors may have shown initial resistance but have come to see them as additional eyes and ears in the community.

WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board members studying Grand Rapids downtown ambassadors as an alternative to adding beat cops.

Community
2:36 am
Fri November 29, 2013

Local, Independent Retailers Ramp Up For Strong Sales This Holiday Weekend

Credit Think Local First

Locally owned businesses are hoping holiday shoppers out today will make sure they shop at their stores, not just the big box retailers. 

Ingrid Ault is the executive director of Think Local First.  Ault says they want shoppers to think of today as "Plaid Friday" and support locally owned, independent stores and restaurants.

Ault says tomorrow is also Small Business Saturday which was created by American Express.   Shoppers get a discount for using their card at small independently owned businesses Saturday.  She says unlike many chain stores, most locally owned businesses opted to stay closed yesterday to let their employees celebrate Thanksgiving.

WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on efforts to promote small, locally owned businesses as the busy holiday shopping period ramps up.

Education
1:54 am
Thu November 28, 2013

AAPS Superintendent Talks Transition to E-Textbooks

Credit Maximilian Schönherr / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Ann Arbor Public Schools are working on reducing the load students have in their backpacks.  The move to online textbooks either through iPads, laptops, or desktop computers will reduce the need to carry books to and from schools. 

Superintendent Jeanice Swift says some of the recently adopted textbooks already have online options available and the district wants to expand their use before a complete move to online textbooks.  Swift says the bulk of the transition to e-textbooks won't happen for a couple of years.  She says the delay will give time for new textbooks to be developed specifically to meet the common core curriculum.

 Swift says she doesn't think paper textbooks will ever be completely eliminated but could become an extra feature that costs more.

WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on Ann Arbor Schools starting the switch to E-Textbooks.

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Community
2:08 am
Wed November 27, 2013

Food Gatherers Celebrates 25th Anniversary

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of Food Gatherers.    The organization has grown from collecting about 50 pounds of food in the days leading up to Thanksgiving in 1988, to sharing 5.5 million lbs of food annually today. 

Food Gatherers relies on over 5,000 volunteers to collect, sort, and prepare food for 150 non-profit partner programs and the community kitchen at the Delonis Homeless Shelter.

Eileen Spring is the president of Food Gatherers.  She says unfortunately the demand for food remains high, although somewhat better than at the peak of the recession.
 
Spring says among the challenges Food Gatherers face is being prepared to flip food from a source that can't use it to an organization that can in as little as 24 hours.  She says in addition to unpredictability, they also must address the need for food year-round even though more than half of the cash donations and most food drives take place in the weeks around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Spring says a just completed addition to their warehouse will help increase the amount of fresh produce and protein they can accept and share.  She says going forward Food Gatherers is working with partner organizations to reduce food insecurity among children, which is particularly a problem in the summer months.

WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on Food Gatherers helping provide food for 25 years.

U of M Murder
3:34 pm
Tue November 26, 2013

Second Man Charged With Murder in UM Medical Student Death

A second South Carolina man has been formally charged in the death of University of Michigan medical student Paul DeWolf. 

Joei Alexander Jordan of Sumter, South Carolina was charged today with open murder, two counts of home invasion, and one charge of conspiracy to commit home invasion.  Last week Shaquille Jones was arraigned on the same charges.  A third suspect remains in the Washtenaw County Jail but hasn't been charged in the DeWolf case yet. 

Ann Arbor Transit Center
12:49 am
Tue November 26, 2013

New Blake Transit Center to be Finished in January, On Budget

The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority expects to complete work on the new Blake Transit Center in late January. 

CEO Michael Ford says they will talk with Dennis Dahlmann who is buying the former YMCA site next to the transit center.  Ford says hopefully the development and the Transit Center can be mutually beneficial.   Ford says they will also have discussions about portable trailers that are on the Y-Lot as a temporary operations hub for the transit center during construction.

Ford says only about 30,000 dollars remain in the contingency fund but hopefully the project will come in on budget.

WEMU's Andrew Cluley has this update on the new Blake Transit Center construction project.

Recreation Millage
1:41 am
Mon November 25, 2013

Ann Arbor Schools Committee Investigating Possibilities From Recreation Millage

As Ann Arbor Public Schools officials look to again address a projected budget shortfall for next school year they are also gathering information on a possible new revenue source.  An ad-hoc committee is collecting information on a possible recreation millage. 

School Board member Glenn Nelson says determining what this type of millage can be used for will be a first step.  He says checking with some area districts on how they use a recreation millage will be a valuable resource.  Nelson says the committee should have a report ready for the full school board by the middle of January.  He says they would then have the background details needed to consider a recreation millage compared to other options such as trying again on a county-wide enhancement millage.

The committee should have a report by the middle of January so a recreation millage request could be considered among other options when the budget discussions really get going in earnest.  Nelson  says a recreation millage wouldn't be able to directly fund core academic programs, but it could free up money that's currently funding other programs.

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Transit
2:31 am
Fri November 22, 2013

AAATA Beats Peers on Cost per Passenger Trip, Higher on Cost per Service Hour

Credit Facebook/TheRide

A comparison to peer public transit organizations finds the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority's cost per passenger trip is about 17 percent below the median cost of similar organizations.  The lower cost is thanks to The Ride having about 50% more passenger trips per service hour, and despite a higher cost per service hour than the median of their peers. 

The study looked at 20 transit authorities selected through a methodology developed for the National Transit Cooperative Research Program.  It included Lansing and Kalamazoo.

Chair of the AAATA board Charles Griffith says the study is done every few years and the information will be useful as service expansion is contemplated.  Griffith says the board is now asking staff to dig deeper into the report and find areas The Ride can do better.

WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on a peer comparison report done by the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.

Education
9:41 am
Thu November 21, 2013

Ann Arbor Schools Ready To Meet Mandated Online Class Requirements

Ann Arbor Schools officials say eight years of providing quality, on-line classes have the the district well positioned to meet new state regulations mandating more online offerings. Starting in January, all public districts in Michigan are required to allow students from fifth grade through high school to take up to two online classes, per academic term.  Anthony Lauer is the Online and Options Coordinator in Ann Arbor, and says the district is working with the state to finalize details on its online options.

Some school board members expressed concern the new law lacks assurance of quality of education and is more focused on driving down educational costs. Some also questioned whether expanding online options to elementary and middle schools students serves the nest interests of the students.

For a complete report, listen below to the full report from WEMU's Andrew Cluley.

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