Efforts to increase public transportation in Washtenaw County's urban core took another step forward last night. Ann Arbor City Council has approved a plan for Ypsilanti Township to join the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. Council voted 11 to nothing in favor of the resolution last night.
Starting in 2016 Ann Arbor's Downtown Development Authority will have new limitations on the tax increment financing revenue they can capture. After nearly a year of discussions Ann Arbor City Council has given final approval to an ordinance amendment that limits the tax increment financing revenue the Downtown Development Authority can collect. Last night, City Council voted 9 - 2 in favor of the change.
Four Teams of graduate students at the University of Michigan have won Dow Distinguished Awards to pursue projects dealing with sustainability solutions.
Three of the winning teams will work on projects in Southeast Michigan, and the fourth is heading up a water management project in India.
Drew Horning is Deputy Director of the Graham Sustainability Institute. He says one of the winning proposals is the retrofitting of a 112-year-old house in Ann Arbor to be self-sustaining.
Horning says other winning projects include a pilot project aimed at enabling energy efficiency in rental properties in Ann Arbor, a greenhouse gas inventory for the City of Detroit, and water demand management for improved adaptation by small farmers in India.
He says these projects have the ability to impact how we address and implement sustainability solutions in the future.
Supporters of Pizza in the Park say an ordinance change Ann Arbor City Council will consider Monday is important in keeping the event going year round.
The City Council will consider second reading of the amendment that will waive the rental fee at all parks for events that are primarily designed for the charitable distribution of goods for basic human needs.
Seth Best is with Camp Take Notice and a volunteer with Vineyard Church. Best says the amendment is needed because they can't always hold Pizza in the Park at Liberty Plaza where council has already waived the fee.
Best says as a former homeless person, Pizza in the Park is an important chance for homeless people to see a smiling face and meet kind people. He says the Pizza in the Park volunteers work to clean up after the event and often leave Liberty Plaza cleaner than they find it.
WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on Ann Arbor City Council considering final approval of an ordinance amendment to waive park rental fees for events that are primarily designed to share goods to meet basic human needs.
WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on the possible routes for the Ann Arbor Transit Connector.
Ann Arbor area residents have a chance to review and comment on six possible routes for a high capacity public transit connector service. The routes linking the Plymouth Road U-S 23 area to the University of Michigan, downtown Ann Arbor, and Briarwood Mall were shared at recent public workshops.
Ann Arbor Public Schools used less fund balance last year than approved in the final budget. The School Board last night received a briefing on the 2013 fiscal year budget audit. The audit shows the district used $7.2 million dollars in fund balance, compared to projections of up to $9.8 million.
Superintendent Jeanice Swift says halting furniture and most equipment purchases, travel restrictions, and other measures starting in March saved about $1.5 million. Swift says many of these restrictions are back in place following student enrollment numbers not reaching projections in September.
It won't be long before we have the official results of last week's elections.
Ed Golembiewski is Washtenaw County's Elections Director. He says the results will be certified first thing Wednesday morning.
Golembiewski says one provisional ballot was added in Ann Arbor elections, and Ann Arbor city council 5th Ward write-in candidate Chip Smith got an additional 100 votes - not enough to change the results.
People looking for something to eat in Ann Arbor's South University Area are getting some more options thanks to a new food truck program. Eat the Street is the new program that's a partnership between the South University Area Association and Eat the Hub.
Alex Perlman is with Eat the Hub and owns two food carts. Perlman says they hope the former Pinball Pete's site at 1215 South University will be a successful location for food carts. He says they have done some basic landscaping and worked with the Health Department on prepping the site for food carts. He says hopefully the mix of food will attract both students and some Ann Arbor residents that don't typically come to the South U area.
The carts are expected to last in this location until April when the site will be used for something else. A mix of food carts including Indian, Grilled Cheese, Healthy California inspired, and other options are coming to Ann Arbor's South University area.
Ann Arbor City Council has adopted a resolution asking the University of Michigan to decommission its electronic billboard outside Michigan Stadium.
The sign is the largest billboard in Ann Arbor and city officials say it's too large, too close to the road, and is distracting to motorists.
3rd Ward council member Christopher Taylor acknowledges he and his colleagues can't actually influence U-of-M's decision on this matter. The most they can do is ask the university to take the sign down.
Taylor doesn't expect council to spend much more time discussing the issue, instead focusing on other issues of mutual interest with U-of-M.
A pair of consulting firms are working with Ann Arbor's Downtown Development Authority to create a framework to be used to make more active streetscapes. The DDA approved a $150,000 contract for the downtown street framework plan.
DDA board Member John Mouat says the framework will be designed so streets that face different challenges and issues can be tailored to meet their particular needs. He says the DDA, the city, or private developers should all be able to use the framework. Mouat says some additional civil engineering work may be done for the city to look at infrastructure under the streets.
City Council last night voted nine to two in favor of the first reading of a new ordinance amendment limiting the DDA's TIF capture.
Chair of the DDA board Sandi Smith says this is a better plan than council originally considered but she thinks it will still hurt the city in the long run.
City Council member Stephen Kunselman says the amendment will allow the DDA to continue to do great work downtown, but force the authority to be more responsive to the city and other taxing authorities.
The amendment also caps DDA board members to three consecutive terms and requires annual contributions to the DDA's housing fund.
If a sale of the former YMCA site in Ann Arbor is completed with the owner of the Campus Inn and Bell Tower Hotel, the development will include retail, two floors of large plate office space, and residential space for the upper floors.
City Council last night unanimously passed a resolution for city staff to negotiate with Dennis Dahlmann who bid $5.25 million for the property.
CA Ventures increased their bid after the deadline, but council member Stephen Kunselman says it's important that city negotiates with the original high bidder.
Kunselman says it's been a decade that the city has been trying to decide what to do with this property so he's glad to see progress finally being made. After expenses are covered the city will commit proceeds from the sale to affordable housing.
Long-time Ann Arbor City Council member Marcia Higgins said goodbye to the board last night at her final meeting. Higgins never imagined she would serve so long when she was first elected in 1999.
Higgins says she's most proud of something not very glamorous, work to clean up contradictions in the city's zoning language, adding that there is now more transparency in the city's budget and the labor contracts are better than they used to be.
Higgins says she was blessed to work with many great city council members, and it's important for council to listen to each other and work together. She explained that she was initially sad when she lost in the August primary but is now excited to have time to do things she's put off for years.
Ann Arbor Police have made three arrests connected to this summer's death of a University of Michigan Medical student. A press release says no other suspects are believed to be outstanding, and there does not appear to be any previous affiliation between the suspects and Paul DeWolf. The suspects also don't have any known connection with the University of Michigan or the U.S. Air Force. DeWolf was an Air Force Second Lieutenant. He was found dead in his apartment in July.
Incumbent Ann Arbor City Council member Stephen Kunselman has defeated a challenge from a former campaign volunteer. Kunselman received 70 percent of the vote yesterday, with Sam DeVarti of the Mixed Use Party claiming 28 percent.
Kunselman says the results of all of the council races show voters still want a greater priority placed on core services. He says council will continue to focus on making stronger neighborhoods. Kunselman says it will be nice to have more allies on council as he looks to run for mayor next year.
Democrat Jack Eaton claimed nearly 90 percent of the vote for Ann Arbor's fourth ward City Council race, and incumbent Mike Anglin won in the fifth ward with about 68 percent.
Eaton and Anglin were the only names on the ballot in their respective wards, but both candidates also faced write-in campaigns in the last few weeks before the election.
Eaton says the write-in efforts came without participation in debates and other campaigning so voters couldn't get a clear picture of these candidates.
Eaton's challenger was William Lockwood, while Anglin faced write-in campaigns from Thomas Partridge who announced his campaign months ago and Chip Smith who registered as a write-in candidate less than a month ago. Eaton also faced a tongue-in-check write in campaign from a 20 pound carp that was pulled from a pond in West Park a year ago.
A local pedestrian safety advocate has launched an online petition drive to prompt state lawmakers to pass a Michigan crosswalk law.
Former Ann Arbor school board member Kathy Griswold says crosswalks in her city lack the proper infrastructure, such as good lighting, to be safe to use. She points to a new mid-block crossing on Huron east of State as an example where lighting has been an issue.
Griswold says a state crosswalk law would mean standardized, safe pedestrian crossings across Michigan.
Ann Arbor officials believe the city is pretty well prepared to handle a wide variety of disasters, but hope to win a one-million dollar grant to become even more resilient. Ann Arbor applied to the Rockefeller Foundation's 100 Resilient Cities program.
Environmental Coordinator Matt Naud says many of the communities that applied are coastal communities facing rising water levels, hurricanes and other issues. He says Ann Arbor has a different story to tell and could serve as a good model community for across much of the US and the globe. Naud adds that with climate change the types of storms Ann Arbor does face are more extreme now than in the past.
He maintains that the resilient cities program can help strengthen neighborhoods to respond to disasters with less need for outside help.
Voters in Ann Arbor's 5th ward tomorrow will have a choice of three candidates, although only one name will appear on the ballot. Incumbent Democrat Mike Anglin is seeking re-election. His name will be the only name voters see.
But, as WEMU's David Fair reports, there are two Democratic write-in candidates seeking to pull off an upset:
For nearly a decade, Ann Arbor Public Schools have been able to fund a variety of facility upgrades through a sinking fund millage that brings in about $7.4 million a year. District voters tomorrow will be aske to continue the sinking fund from 2015 through 2019.