John Hieftje

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Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje sat down with Patrick Campion to discuss his 14 years in office, what led him to politics in the first place and what his plans are now that his time as Mayor is coming to an end.  

Ann Arbor
Andrew Cluley / 89.1 WEMU

Ten years ago Washtenaw County officials came together and drafted a blueprint to end homelessness. While much has been accomplished, the issue remains a challenge.  Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje and Chair of the Washtenaw County Commissioners Yousef Rabhi are hosting a new conversation on Affordable Housing and Homelessness.


Nixon and Dhu Varren
Andrew Cluley / 89.1 WEMU

New housing developments often lead to concerns about increased traffic.  But what if the additional traffic is expected to use an already busy and awkward intersection?  Ann Arbor officials hope to avoid this problem on the city's north side where Green and Dhu Varren Roads don't quite line up where they intersect with Nixon. A redesign of the intersection is expected to be part of developments planned for the area.


Ann Arbor City Hall
Andrew Cluley / 89.1 WEMU

For the first time in 14-years, Ann Arbor will soon have a new Mayor.   Whom voters elect will help determine the direction of the city's spending priorities.


Courtesy Image / Humae Society of Huron Valley

The City of Ann Arbor will spend 135-thousand dollars to support animal control services in Washtenaw County. 


Ann Arbor
Andrew Cluley / 89.1 WEMU

Primary elections are less than two months away so candidates are getting busy knocking on doors and sharing their vision.  Ann Arbor voters also have several chances to see all four Democrats running for Mayor in the coming weeks.  


Nature House at the Leslie Science and Nature Center
Andrew Cluley / 89.1 WEMU

Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje believes the Leslie Science and Nature Center is a great example of efforts to make the city more green.  Tonight he'll host the 14th annual Mayor's Green Fair

  

Ann Arbor Logo
Andrew Cluley / 89.1 WEMU

The 4 Ann Arbor City Council members seeking Mayor John Hieftje's job will participate in a forum in his Ford School of Public Policy class Wednesday.  The forum set to begin at 1 in the afternoon in Weill Hall will be open to the public.   Hieftje says he doesn't know exactly what the students will be asking Sabra Briere, Sally Hart Petersen, Stephen Kunselman, and Christopher Taylor.


Andrew Cluley

Ann Arbor will use general fund money to help the public art program transition to a new funding model, but over $940,000 in old percent for art funds are being returned to their original sources.  That’s the result of three resolutions passed by city council Monday night to hopefully end the long debate over the program.  


Courtesy Photo

The University of Michigan can go ahead with plans to buy the Edwards Brothers property on State Street for nearly 13 million dollars.  Ann Arbor City Council voted six to five Monday night against using the right of first refusal to match the university’s offer.  

Courtesy Photo

A decision is expected Monday night as Ann Arbor officials debate whether they should buy a State Street Property or have it permanently removed from the tax rolls.  City Council is holding a special meeting to consider using a right of first refusal to buy the Edwards Brothers property.  

Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje calls on residents to take advantage of the warmer weather and clean off their sidewalks.  Hieftje admits the amount of snow, and the freezing rain a few walks ago caused a mess, but many people rely on walking to get to jobs and other important appointments.

With the deadline to use a right of first refusal to buy the Edwards Brothers Property on State Street about a week away, Ann Arbor City Council will hold a special meeting on the issue Monday.  

The battle over the future of public art in Ann Arbor continues, with City Council approving the first reading of an ordinance amendment to allow them to return up to $840,000 to other departments.

A six month extension of Public Art Administrator Aaron Seagraves contract was then rejected.

Council member Jack Eaton expects to bring the contract back up for a vote after final approval of the amendment to the public art ordinance to allow old "Percent for Art" funds to be returned.  Eaton says he's sorry for Seagraves but democracy is sometimes messy.

Council member Jane Lumm wants proposed Art Projects at Argo Cascades, the Stadium Bridges, and the Kingsley Rain Garden completed.  However she thinks a clean break needs to be made between the old program and one where the city partners with a non-profit organization.

Chair of the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission Bob Miller says a change would be good but it appears city council is holding public art administrator Aaron Seagraves hostage over the funding debate.

Mayor John Hieftje is disappointed with council's vote on the administrator, and fears they may lose him even if the contract extension is approved in two weeks.

Earlier WEMU coverage of the Public Art Funding issues can be found here:

Edwards Brothers Malloy
Courtesy photo

Ann Arbor City Council will take another two weeks before deciding if they want to purchase the Edwards Brothers property on State Street. 

The city is considering exercising a right of first refusal to stop the University of Michigan from buying the land. 

Mayor John Hieftje doesn't think the recent experience with the former YMCA property will have much influence on this State Street parcel.  He says that's because downtown property is in great demand while Edwards Brothers is well south of downtown.
  
Ann Arbor would have to match U-M's $12.8 million purchase price for the property. 

Map of the Edwards Brothers property is here:

City Council last night also postponed action on a first reading of a proposed smoking ban for city parks, bus stops, and entrances to city buildings.   The delay is so council members can get feedback from some of the organizations that would be impacted by the proposal.

Crosswalks in Ann Arbor
matthileo / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Ann Arbor City Council soon may be once more looking at revisions to the city's crosswalk ordinance. 

Council member Stephen Kunselman says another proposed amendment is likely.  He adds that the new proposal will be based on language used by Mayor John Hieftje in his veto of the amendment council passed late last year.  Kunselman says the mayor mentioning motorists need to stop if they can do so safely is a change.

Hiefjte says the comment about motorists stopping if they can safely do so is nothing new.  He says pedestrians remain safer if they don't have to step into the road to get motorists to stop. 

The city also has a new task force looking at a wide variety of pedestrian safety issues including the crosswalk ordinance.


Ann Arbor City Council has approved the site plan and development agreement for an apartment building at 624 Church Street.  The proposal is for a 14 story apartment building built partially over the Pizza House Restaurant.  The plan calls for 232 bedrooms in 123 units. 

The project has been given positive reviews from the city’s Design Review Board but parking issues led to a lengthy conversation at the council table.  The concerns centered around having spaces reserved in the Forest Avenue parking structure for the next 15 years, and three five year extensions to have spaces somewhere in the city’s parking system. 

Council members say the city’s payment in lieu of parking program needs to be reviewed, as well as the requirement for parking at downtown developments. 

The developers of the project hope to begin work in the spring with a targeted occupancy date in August of 2015.

Sally Hart/ Facebook

Another Ann Arbor City Council member has announced she’s running for mayor.  Second Ward Council representative Sally Hart Petersen today announced she will seek outgoing Mayor John Hieftje’s position.

Petersen says her combination of leadership experience, skills and interests in the private, public, and non-profit sectors make her uniquely qualified to lead Ann Arbor into its next era of growth and sustainability.  She says in addition to promoting growth, Ann Arbor's next Mayor needs to be a champion of civic engagement which she has done on council through surveying residents on a variety of topics.

Petersen says her top priority will be increasing city services.  She says this will be possible if the private business sector is stronger so more revenues will be available to dedicate to services.

Hieftje announced last year he wouldn’t seek re-election.  So far City Council members Sabra Briere, Stephen Kunselman, and Christopher Taylor have all announced they are running for mayor.

Petersen says she's thought about running for mayor for a long time and Hieftje's decision has really opened the door.

First Ward Ann Arbor City Council representative Sabra Briere is running to be the next mayor of Ann Arbor. Briere announced she's running in a letter today.

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The race to be Ann Arbor’s next mayor won’t include the chair of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners. 

Yousef Rabhi today announced he won’t run for mayor this year.  Rabhi says he expects it to be an interesting race, but likely won’t be endorsing any candidate.

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Ann Arbor City Council wants some more information as they consider using their right of first refusal to purchase the Edward Brothers property on South State Street. 

Council Monday night voted unanimously to have the city administrator and city attorney study the issue and identify options to make buying the property financially feasible. 

Another Ann Arbor City Council member is seeking outgoing Mayor John Hieftje's job.
Third Ward Democrat Christopher Taylor today announced he's running for mayor in 2014.

Stephen Kunselman who also represents the third ward on council has already announced he's running, while Hieftje has said he won't seek re-election.

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.


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.


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.


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