Ann Arbor

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.

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.

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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