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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.

Environment
7:25 am
Fri November 29, 2013

The Green Room: Tackling Stadium Waste

The first load of recycling from Michigan Stadium
Barbara Lucas

Collegiate athletic events are big generators:  of excitement, of revenue, and of waste.  How can we cut down on the trash, while leaving the finances and fun intact?  In this month's installment of The Green Room, WEMU looks at game-day waste at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, and Michigan stadium in Ann Arbor.

Additional Resources:

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environment
6:42 am
Fri November 29, 2013

Issues of the Environment: Ann Arbor's Climate Action Plan

The climate is changing. The evidence is clear. It's no longer a matter of whether we need to prepare, but instead, how we need to prepare. In this week's installment of WEMU's Issues of the Environment, David Fair talks with Matt Naud. Matt is the City of Ann Arbor's Environmental  Coordinator, and has been right in the middle of the city's efforts to adopt a pro-active Climate Action Plan.

Issues of the Environment for November 27th, 2013

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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.

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
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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Education
9:28 am
Thu November 21, 2013

Ann Arbor Schools To Continue in Alternative Programs

Ann Arbor Public Schools will continue to participate in three county-wide, alternative programs for high school students.   The Board of Education Thursday night voted to maintain it's relationship with the consortium that includes the Early College Alliance (ECA), Washtenaw International High School (WI-High) and Widening Achievement for Youth (WAY) program.  The resolution calls on Superintendent Jeanice Swift to target no more than 10 spots in the WAY program, 35 new slots in the E-C-A, and 40 new slots for Wi-High.  District officials had called into question whether Ann Arbor should continue in the consortium, citing a lack of transparency and communication with Washtenaw Intermediate School District officials that op[erate the program. WISD Superintendent Scott Menzel apologized for communication issues and says they will do better in the future. Ann Arbor school board members also accepted some of the blame in the communication break-down and for missing consortium meetings.  For a full report, listen below.

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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.

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