Ann Arbor

Local News
3:56 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

New Contract for A2SO, Musicians

The Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra has reached a five-year agreement with Local 625 of the American Federation of Musicians. 

Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra Board President Bob Gates said the new contract shows that everyone at the bargaining table shared the goals of "artistic excellence, commitment to financial sustainability, and service to our community." 

Musicians spokesperson and Principal Oboist Tim Michling said the increased compensation levels included in the contract will help the symphony "attract and retain the highest caliber performers."

Education
4:03 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

U of M to Research Effects of Video Games and Technology on Mobility

The University of Michigan Medical Center will be conducting research on the effectiveness of video games and technology in creating more independence for young people with spinal cord dysfunction and neuro-developmental disabilities. 

The U of M Medical Center just got a $4.5 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education's National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research. It will be given over a five-year period, and will help launch U of M's Rehabilitation and Research Center. 

Ann Arbor
4:58 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

Sale of Former YMCA Lot in Ann Arbor Moves Forward

The City of Ann Arbor and the owner of the Campus Inn and Bell Tower Hotel have reached an agreement for the sale of the former YMCA  property. 

Dennis Dahlmann agreed to all of the conditions required by City Council in addition to his purchase price of $5.25 million  for the property at 350 South Fifth Avenue. 

Mayor John Hieftje says he's excited to have the sale moving forward and have the land providing income to the city and bring more vitality than a surface parking lot.

The sale is expected to close by the end of the year to meet the city's deadline to payoff an interest only loan on the property.  Dahlmann will be required to build a project including ground floor retail, large plate office space, and residential units.

WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on the sale of Ann Arbor's former YMCA site moving forward.

Transportation
2:42 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

Ypsilanti Township Approved to Join Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority

Credit Facebook/TheRide

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.  

WEMU's Andrew Cluley has more.
 

Last month Ann Arbor City Council held off a vote on a resolution to approve adding Ypsilanti Township to the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.

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Ann Arbor
2:12 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

Ann Arbor City Council Takes First Measure to Repeal Crosswalk Ordinance

Credit morguefile.com

Ann Arbor is creating a task force to look at pedestrian safety and access, but even before the group meets a change in the city's crosswalk law is expected. 

Ann Arbor City Council took a pair of actions at their meeting last night with an eye towards pedestrian safety, but concerns remain about if they will do anything positive. 

WEMU's Andrew Cluley has more:

       

Andrew Cluley reports on A2 City Council's new pedestrian safety measures.

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City Council
1:52 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

Ann Arbor Council Limits Downtown Development Authority Financing by 2016

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. 

WEMU's Andrew Cluley has more:
 

Andrew Cluley reports a a measure to chance the way the DDA is financed

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Education
5:01 pm
Mon November 18, 2013

Michigan Grad Students win Dow Distinguished Awards

Winners of the Dow Awards to Pursue Sustainability Solutions in Southeast Michigan & India
Credit Sustainability.umich.edu/ / University of Michigan

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.

For more information about the Dow Distinguished Awards in Sustainability, visit the U-M Planet Blue website at http://sustainability.umich.edu/education/dow.

Parks and Recreation
4:57 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

Ann Arbor City Council to Consider Ordinance Change to Help Charitable Events in Parks

Credit The DLC / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

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.

Transit
7:56 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Public Comments Wanted on 6 Possible Ann Arbor Connector Routes

Credit Courtesy photo / AAConnector.org

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. 

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Education
3:24 am
Thu November 14, 2013

Ann Arbor Schools Audited Budget Shows Less Use of Fund Balance Than Expected

Credit AAPS

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.  

WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on the Ann Arbor Public Schools 2013 fiscal year audited budget.

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Local News
6:20 pm
Tue November 12, 2013

Last Week's Election Results to be Certified Soon

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.

Click to hear WEMU's Bob Eccles' report.

Local News
1:17 am
Tue November 12, 2013

Eat the Street Bringing Food Carts to Ann Arbor's South U

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.

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Transit
5:54 pm
Mon November 11, 2013

Get Downtown Launches 'Conquer the Cold' Commuter Challenge

Credit Getdowntown

Just because the weather's turning cold doesn't mean it's time to give up on your alternative method of commuting. 

The Get Downtown Program is encouraging people to register to participate in this year's "Conquer the Cold" winter commuting challenge. 

Get Downtown Program director Nancy Shore says "Conquer the Cold" aims to keep alternative commutes going.

Downtown Ann Arbor employees can sign up for winter bike commuting classes and register for the commuting challenge, which offers a $500 Bivouac gift card as its top prize. 

WEMU's Bob Eccles reports on the Getdowntown program's Conquer the Cold Commuter Challenge

Community
3:39 pm
Mon November 11, 2013

Ann Arbor City Council Requests U-of-M toTake Billboard Down

Marquee rendering
Credit University of Michigan Athletics

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.

WEMU's Bob Eccles' report can be heard here.

Community
2:24 am
Mon November 11, 2013

Consultants to Develop Framework Plan for Downtown Ann Arbor Streets

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.

WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on efforts to create a downtown streets framework plan for Ann Arbor.

Community
4:08 am
Fri November 8, 2013

New Ordinance to Limit Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority TIF Capture Passes First Reading

Starting in 2016 Ann Arbor's Downtown Development Authority will likely have their ability to capture tax increment financing capped at a growth rate of 3.5% . 

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.

WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on a revised effort to limit tax increment financing captures by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.

Community
4:04 am
Fri November 8, 2013

Ann Arbor to Begin Negotiations on Sale of YMCA Lot

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.

WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on Ann Arbor City Council passing a resolution to negotiate the sale of the former YMCA property.

Community
3:59 am
Fri November 8, 2013

Ann Arbor City Council Says Goodbye to Long-time Member Higgins

Marcia Higgins
Credit Courtesy hvote4higgins.com

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.

WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on Marcia Higgins final Ann Arbor City Council meeting.

Community
5:43 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

Arrests Made In This Summer's U-of-M Medical Student Homicide Case

Paul DeWolf
Credit Associated Press

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.

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Environment
9:54 am
Wed November 6, 2013

Issues of the Environment: Water and Sewer Issues in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County

The Barton Dam on the Huron River
Credit Credit James Marvin Phelps / Foter / CC BY-NC

In this week's edition of WEMU's "Issues of the Environment", David Fair talks with Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner, Evan Pratt. 

This interview is a follow-up to an earlier conversation with Jennifer Lawson, Water Quality Manager for Ann Arbor, that followed the large sewage spill into the Huron River in June or 2013. Evan will address the fact that several spills have occurred since then and talk about projects that Washtenaw County is working on to update the water treatment system.

Overview

  • There have been at least four breaches of the water treatment system in Ann Arbor since this summer.
  • These spill have prompted concerns that Washtenaw County’s aging water treatment network and sewage system may not be robust enough to handle the demands of today’s residents.

Listen to "Issues of the Environment" with David Fair and Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner Evan Pratt below.

Issues of the Environment for 11/06/2013

Local News
3:14 am
Wed November 6, 2013

Briere Wins Re-Election to Ann Arbor First Ward City Council Seat

Voters in Ann Arbor's first ward have given Sabra Briere a fourth term on city council.  Briere claimed 66 percent of the vote to 32 percent for challenger Jeff Hayner yesterday. 

Briere says she thinks voters have appreciated her efforts to respond to their concerns.  Briere says she hopes voters also considered her communication efforts. 

Hayner says he believes just by running some of the issues he's been concerned about are getting discussed by city council.

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Local News
3:05 am
Wed November 6, 2013

Kunselman Wins In Ann Arbor's Third Ward

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.

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Local News
3:01 am
Wed November 6, 2013

Write-In Candidates Can't Stop Eaton, Anglin

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.

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Safety
2:51 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Local Pedestrian Safety Advocate Pushing for State Crosswalk Law

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. 

You can find her petition at www.Change.org.

Community
12:36 am
Tue November 5, 2013

Ann Arbor Seeks Resilient City Designation

Credit Rockafeller Foundation

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.

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