Welcome to everyone who is new to this newsletter! Before every Council meeting, I write up my own summary of each agenda item and try to pull details that I think are most relevant to understanding them. My hope is that these summaries can help residents keep track of what City Council is doing. For issues that matter to you, I encourage you to follow links (next to each agenda item) to the City's Legistar website, where you can find all the background information.
I send this newsletter during a particularly challenging time for many residents as we cope with an extended power outage. My power has also been out - we finally had to empty our fridge today. Many parts of Ward 4 have frequent power outages, including my own street. In the last few days, I’ve seen a lot of interesting discussion about possible solutions to this chronic problem - I look forward to more thoughtful debate about how and why our community struggles more than others and what we can do to fix it. For anyone struggling, note that a RELIEF CENTER is open at Pioneer High School this weekend from 8 AM to 8 PM - visit this link for more information:
This week, the regular Council agenda is fairly short. There are two public hearings for ordinances at second reading (fur sales ban and conversion therapy ban), disbursement of funds for community events (DC-1), purchase of a property on Eighth Street (DC-5), a resolution to activate the Center of the City (DC-4), and a resolution to address flooding in the Narrow Gauge area (DC-6). Several items on our consent agenda anticipate street closures for events this fall: UM Go Blue Mix (9/4/21), Mayor’s Green Fair (10/1/21), and A2 Artober Fest (10/8/21). Item CA-17 will extend some downtown street closures (through 11/1/21) and item CA-18 will create a “social district” in the Main Street area.
On the topic of community events and street closures: I was somewhat relieved this week to see the cancellation of Taste of Ann Arbor (previously scheduled for 9/19/21).
I was very concerned about this event when Council voted to approve it at our last meeting. Like many others in our community, my family is anticipating the beginning of a new school year — we are hopeful about the safety and success of in-person instruction. As a community, we have many decisions ahead of us: calculating risk and reducing exposure for the health and safety of everyone.
Ward 4 News
Residents in the Lawton area should notice agenda item CA-1, which formally accepts walkways off of Delaware and Morehead as connectors, rights-of-way for public use. The city will now regularly inspect these connectors and be responsible for repairs/maintenance.
Tomorrow (Sunday) at 1 p.m., there is a dedication and celebration of the newly named Graydon Park (formerly Rose White Park). For more information about the park and this event:
Residents in need of financial help during this crisis (e.g. to avoid eviction, pay utility bills, cover emergency medical expenses) can find resources at this link:
Housing Access for Washtenaw County
Housing Access for Washtenaw County (HAWC) is Washtenaw County’s central intake for individuals and families who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness. If you are homeless or experiencing a housing crisis, please call HAWC at (734) 961-1999
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Sunday Aug 15th 3:00pm
I hold coffee hours Sunday afternoons at 3pm before City Council meetings. This summer I am holding them outdoors at City Parks - bring a chair if you have one.
This week I will be holding coffee hours at Meadowbrook Park (accessible from South Seventh or Northbrook Drive)
City Council Regular Meeting
Monday Aug 16th 7:00pm
My summary of the meeting agenda is posted below in this newsletter.
Note that Council is still meeting "virtually" using the Zoom application. Video feeds of Council meetings are broadcast on CTN and YouTube. Public comment is audio only using dial-in numbers. Please check the Legistar link for the latest information.
A2ELNEL.com Website Updates
In addition to writing this newsletter, I post updates to my website with my perspectives on how issues were resolved at City Council and details on how Council voted at each meeting. I also post information about meetings and issues that affect Ward 4 residents, along with news that affects all city residents.
You can see a listing of all my posts here: https://www.a2elnel.com/blog/
City Council Voting Chart for Aug 2, 2021
City Council Special Session Voting Chart for Aug 4, 2021
Relief Station at Pioneer High School Aug 12-15, 2021 The City of Ann Arbor opened a relief station on Thursday Aug 12th at Ann Arbor Pioneer High School for those impacted by this week’s storms, and have extended operation through Sunday Aug 15th. I will update this post as more information becomes available. https://www.a2elnel.com/post/relief-station-at-pioneer-high-school-aug-12-13-2021 South Maple Detours Between Pennsylvania and Pauline (Aug 9-16, 2021)
A detour on South Maple Road between Pennsylvania Avenue and Pauline Boulevard is set up while the final pavement restoration for the Hickory Way Apartments is completed.
A2COUNCIL Updates (A2COUNCIL.com)
For anyone interested in understanding and analyzing the recent work of Council, I have created a resource at A2COUNCIL.com with summaries of issues and direct links to City documents. For each City Council meeting since November 2018, you can find links to the City's Legistar website, CTN's YouTube video, and links to my newsletters and voting charts. I have listed agenda items of interest from each meeting, along with articles I've written and articles published on MLive.
Council Meeting Agenda 8/16/21
Below is my summary of some issues on the City Council Agenda this week, with links to more information about each of them. If you have comments about any of these issues, feel free to email me at my official City email: ENelson@A2gov.org
The full agenda (including a link to the latest published PDF agenda) can be found on the A2Gov Legistar website:
Ann Arbor City Council Monday Aug 16th (7:00pm) Electronic Meeting
City Council meetings are broadcast live by CTN on Comcast (channel 16) and AT&T (channel 99). They are also streamed live on YouTube and Viebit: https://www.youtube.com/user/ctnannarbor
Questions to the Agenda
In preparation for a Council meeting, Council members can ask questions of staff about scheduled agenda items. Questions must be submitted by noon on the Wednesday before a Council Meeting, and answers are returned the next day (Thursday) by 5pm.
AC-1 (21-1514) Agenda Response Memo and eComments - August 16, 2021
This agenda item has a PDF attachment with all questions raised by Council Members, and the answers provided by staff.
Communications from the Mayor
There were no Mayoral appointments on the agenda at the time this newsletter was published.
Below is the list of items included on the Consent Agenda. If no one on Council specifically requests that an item be pulled for discussion, the whole of this list will be approved in a single vote. I encourage you to look at this list and offer suggestions to me about anything you would like to see pulled for discussion.
CA-1 (21-1073) Resolution to Accept Four Sidewalks for Public Use (8 Votes Required)
CA-2 (21-1398) Resolution to Approve Street Closure of Washington Street between Fletcher and Thayer Streets for the University of Michigan Go Blue Mix on Saturday, September 4, 2021 from 4:00 PM until Midnight
CA-3 (21-1437) Resolution to Close Streets for the 20th Annual Mayor’s Green Fair, Friday, October 1, 2021
CA-4 (21-1282) Resolution to Approve Street Closures for the A2 Artoberfest from 6:00 AM on Friday, October 8, 2021 through 11:00 PM on Sunday, October 10, 2021
CA-5 (21-1325) Resolution to Approve a Contract with Laser Striping and Sport Surfacing to Convert One Tennis Court to Two Pickleball Courts while Renovating both the Tennis Court and Basketball Court Surfaces at Burns Park ($87,450.00)
CA-6 (21-1396) Resolution to Approve a Programmatic Partnership Agreement with USDA-NRCS for the Lake Erie Conservation Partnership: Food & Water for the Future of Southeast Michigan RCPP
CA-7 (21-1376) Resolution to Approve Renewal of a Multi-Year Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft Corporation and Related Multi-Year Payment Plan and Sales and Service Agreement with Dell Marketing L.P. ($1,370,000.00)
CA-8 (21-1408) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order to BSB Communications, Inc. for a One Year Support Agreement for the City’s Mitel phone system ($69,317.70) (Sourcewell - Government Pricing)
CA-9 (21-1411) Resolution to Approve the Appropriation of $137,591 from the Information Technology Fund as Matching Funds for the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) Grant Award for the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Broadband Conduit Project ($137,591) (8 Votes Required)
CA-10 (21-1307) Resolution to Approve the Professional Services Agreement with Nordstrom-Samson & Associates, Inc. for Fire Station #1 Renovation Project ($44,600.00)
CA-11 (21-1384) Resolution to Approve an Agreement with the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office for Weapons Screening Services in the Ann Arbor Justice Center (NTE $195,000.00)
CA-12 (21-1407) Resolution to Approve the June 24, 2021 Recommendation of the Board of Insurance Administration to Deny the Claim Filed by Claimant State Farm on behalf of their insured Nancy J. Allee for a Sewer Backup (CC041-21).
CA-13 (21-1400) Resolution to Accept an Easement for Access and Public Utilities at Mallett’s Wood Condominium from Mallett’s Wood Homeowners Association (8 Votes Required)
CA-14 (21-1401) Resolution to Accept North Access Easement at Mallett’s Wood Condominium from Mallett’s Wood Homeowners Association (8 Votes Required)
CA-15 (21-1402) Resolution to Accept South Access Easement at Mallett’s Wood Condominium from Mallett’s Wood Homeowners Association (8 Votes Required)
CA-16 (21-1425) Resolution to Accept a Quitclaim Deed from Mallett’s Wood, L.L.C. for Park Land at Mary Beth Doyle Park (8 Votes Required)
CA-17 (21-1421) Resolution to Extend Approval of Downtown Street Closures for Restaurant and Retail Use
CA-18 (21-1422) Resolution to Approve the Creation of a Social District in the Main Street Area
Anyone wanting to comment on these issues may speak for 3 minutes, without having specifically reserved time. Issues subject to public hearing will also be up for a vote by Council later in the meeting.
PH-1/B-1 (21-1404) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 7:360, 7:361 and 7:362 and to Amend by Adding New Sections Which Sections Shall Be Designated as 7:363, 7:364 and 7:365 of Chapter 91 (Endangered Species) of Title VII (Businesses and Trades) of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (ORD-21-26)
A new ordinance bans sales, offers for sale, and displays for sale or trade of fur products in the City of Ann Arbor. A person may not distribute a fur product for monetary or nonmonetary consideration in the City. Exemptions include re-sale of used items (pawn or vintage), traditional tribal, cultural or religious practice, and sales permitted by state or federal law. Effective date of this ordinance is in one year, to allow time for businesses to sell off existing inventory.
PH-2/B-2 (21-1406) An Ordinance to Add Chapter 123 (Prohibition of Conversion Therapy on Minors) to Title IX of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (ORD-21-25)
A new ordinance will ban “conversion therapy” on minors within the City of Ann Arbor. It will be unlawful for any person who is licensed by the State of Michigan to engage in counseling, practice, or treatment that seeks to change, reduce, or eliminate an individual’s Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, or Gender Expression.
Ordinances - Second Reading
In order to amend the city code, Council must vote to approve the change, via ordinance, at two Council meetings. The following proposed ordinances were approved at a previous Council meeting, and are also subject to a public hearing as listed above.
B-1 (21-1404) is the same as PH-1 above.
B-2 (21-1406) is the same as PH-2 above.
Ordinances - First Reading
In order to amend the city code, Council must vote to approve the change, via ordinance, at two Council meetings. The following proposed ordinances are being introduced for "first reading". If approved, the ordinance will be voted on at a subsequent Council meeting ("second reading"), where it will also be subject to a public hearing.
C-1 (21-1512) Resolution to Amend Chapter 107 (Animals) of Title IX (Police Regulations) of the Ann Arbor City Code
Violation of any city ordinance related to animals - birds, bees, chickens, ducks, dogs and other animals— will be subject to a fine of no more than $500. Violation of city ordinances related to poisoning animals, harming wild birds or their occupied nests, trapping animals, and owning a vicious dog shall be misdemeanors, subject to a fine (no more than $500) or imprisonment of not more than 90 days, or both.
Motions and Resolutions
The following agenda items are motions and resolutions, which are approved or rejected in a single meeting. Agenda items marked "DC" are proposed by Council members, items marked "DB" are proposed by City boards and commissions, items marked "DS" are proposed by City staff.
DC-1 (21-1491) Resolution for Community Events Fund Disbursements from the FY 2022 Budget
A total of $59,000 is distributed to twelve local entities, to cover city costs related to various community events: Art fairs (2021), Monarch Migration Festival, Taste of Ann Arbor (2021 and 2022), Veterans Day Memorial, Earth Day Celebration (2022), Fool Moon (2022), Festifool (2022), Standing Tough Against Rape Society (2022), Top of the Park and Summer Festival (2022).
DC-2 (21-1495) Resolution Declaring September Entheogenic Plant and Fungi Awareness Month in Ann Arbor, Michigan
September 2021 would be proclaimed Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Awareness month to increase the awareness and understanding of mental ailments, the need for appropriate and accessible treatment options, and the transformative power of psychedelic-assisted therapy for all those suffering or looking to improve their mental health.
DC-3 (21-1453) Resolution to Recommend Approval of Issuance of a Downtown Development District Liquor License to Evergreen Downtown
Evergreen Downtown restaurant at 208 W. Liberty Street will be issued a downtown development district liquor license. This license will permit them to serve beer and wine.
DC-4 (21-1507) Resolution to Approve the Recommendations of The Council of the Commons Regarding Activation of Library Lane Surface Parking Lot for Regular and Recurring Use
City Council would accept recommendations of The Council fo the Commons to facilitate activities at the Center of the City. The City Administrator is directed to create a plan to activate the Library Lane surface parking lot for regular and recurring use by food trucks/carts and other like commercial vendors such as artisan pop-ups, etc. and issue a report to Council by November 1, 2021. If this plan cannot be administered by city staff, the City Administrator is directed to recommend the feasibility of a partnership with an external or non-profit entity to manage the program on the city’s behalf.
DC-5 (21-1513) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of Real Property Located at 519 Eighth Street in Fee Title for $180,000 Plus Costs Not to Exceed $20,000 and to Appropriate Funding from the Solid Waste Fund Balance ($190,000) (8 Votes Required)
The property at 519 Eighth Street would be purchased for $180,000 plus costs (not to exceed $20,000) out of the Solid Waste Fund balance. The purchase of this property will ensure city access to a sanitary sewer main and also provide space for city vehicles (e.g. solid waste trucks) to turn around after servicing residents on Eighth street.
DC-6 (21-1515) Resolution Directing Report to Evaluate Interim Measures to Address Flooding Issues in Narrow Gauge Area
The City Administrator is directed to evaluate interim measures that can be implemented to address reported flooding issues in the Narrow Gauge area and communicate a report to Council by September 16, 2021.
I also published this on my website:
Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed - and no republic can survive
― John F. Kennedy
At our last meeting, Council approved a separation agreement with City Administrator Tom Crawford. This decision was not unanimous and there were many people in the community (as well as on Council) who disagreed with it.
At the Council meeting and before the vote, Mayor Taylor read a statement of explanation and argument, which he later posted on social media (Facebook). Mayor Taylor introduced his remarks with a reference to “irrational, corrosive Q-A2 nonsense you read or hear.”
The term “Q-A2” seems to be an allusion to “QAnon.” Most people probably know vaguely that “QAnon” is an extreme right-wing movement in support of Donald Trump. That is all that I knew about QAnon when I heard the remark about “Q-A2.” It struck me as slightly bizarre that our Mayor would compare anyone who disagrees with him to right wing Trump supporters. To learn more about the conspiracy theories of QAnon, see:
It probably goes without saying: such a comparison is designed to wildly exaggerate political differences and grossly vilify any voice of dissent. For some time now, anyone who disagrees with Mayor Taylor has been described (by him) as “conservative.” Moving forward, it appears that anyone who disagrees with Mayor Taylor will be accused of being “irrational” and “corrosive,” spinning conspiracy theories like QAnon.
Most City Council decisions have a direct impact on residents. We regularly hear from residents whose perspectives are based on relevant knowledge and personal experience. All members of City Council are democrats, but very few of the decisions we make have any connection to national, partisan politics. Issues like sidewalks and street improvements, tax millages and land uses have real consequences for the people who live here and the people who will one day live here.
Our response to local controversy and disagreement is a good measure of how much we respect our community and all its members. The Mayor leads by example when instead of promoting the value of his own position, he hurls labels: “conservative", “beneath contempt”, “irrational”, “corrosive”, and now “Q-A2”. I am frequently reminded of how much his example now defines our local political landscape. E.g. This week, an online discussion about the relative need for a sidewalk in a specific location prompted one resident to email Council to “express concern over the local NIMBY group.” The resident asserted that any debate over this particular sidewalk was ridiculous, akin to questioning “bike helmets, gun locks, or seatbelts.” Increasingly I see this approach to civic discourse in our community: disparage stakeholders with broad insults (“NIMBY”) and characterize their concerns as extremely stupid, selfish, or worse. This is not a healthy (or intelligent) environment for decision making.
Last month, Ann Arbor was again named the most educated city in America— facts and reason should guide our leaders, not resentment and insult. In a community like ours, it is possible to argue one position without vilifying all others. It is possible to disagree with your neighbors without characterizing them as ignorant or malevolent.
City Council includes eleven members: two from each of five wards, plus the Mayor. This composition is designed to generate debate; eleven individuals offer a range of perspectives, representing five different parts of town. I believe that debate can force better solutions as elected leaders work to reconcile opposing interests and find compromise. When the Mayor equates disagreement and dissent to dangerous conspiracy theory, he promotes a very different model for local government, one in which the ruling majority aims to dismiss and silence any voice of criticism.
I believe in our community’s ability to debate issues in a serious way, with respect for each other. Elected leaders have a special role to play, hearing and recognizing the range of perspectives within our community and ultimately working to bring us together.
Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!
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