Ann Arbor's Downtown Development Authority has asked the city to commit the funds the DDA spent on the former YMCA lot to affordable housing projects. The DDA board yesterday passed a resolution to waive the reimbursement of their costs on the Y-Lot property, and encourage City Council to commit as much as possible to affordable housing as well.
DDA Board Member Keith Orr says to make a real impact on affordable housing as much money as possible is needed from the $5.25 million for the sale of the Y-Lot.
Community members at a meeting on proposed sites for a downtown Ann Arbor WALLY commuter rail station supported the service coming to downtown Ann Arbor, the use of a minimal station, and for it to be located at 415 West Washington. Many of the people at last night's meeting however continue to have questions about the overall funding and operations of the proposed commuter rail between Howell and Ann Arbor.
Neal Billetdeaux is a landscape architect with Smith Group JJR. He says the 415 West Washington scored highest of six possible locations because of several factors. This includes the fact the property is owned by the city, was closest to the core of downtown, and has track at grade level on a portion of the site.
Challenges with the curvature of the track and other issues where the proposed WALLY and East-West Commuter rail lines cross make it unlikely that site could serve as a single station serving both lines and Amtrak.
Ann Arbor City Administrator Steve Powers says work on the sale of the former YMCA lot to Dennis Dahlmann continues to go smoothly. However with the city facing a December 16th deadline to repay the $3.5 million installment purchase agreement city council has approved a six month extension on the loan.
Ann Arbor City Council has delayed a vote on a proposed policy developed by the Downtown Development Authority to address the permanent removal of on-street parking meters. The two-week delay is so council can hold a public hearing on the issue.
The policy proposes a $45,000 fee per meter removed for reasons other than an overall benefit to the community.
DDA Executive Director Susan Pollay says the policy could help the DDA work with developers to get the best possible projects for all. Pollay says over the last few years about 150 parking meters have been removed for a variety of projects large and small. She says the policy includes an option for developers to appeal a fee to the city administrator to review if the meter removal is an overall benefit to the community.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.