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Elizabeth Nelson's City Council Blog

I write a City Council newsletter with my summary of agenda items coming before City Council. Sign up to receive it first via email, or read it here later on this blog.

City Council Newsletter (Dec 4, 2021)

Hello neighbors!

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.


This week’s regular and consent agendas are very long. Our agenda is packed with quite a lot of policy, some of it internal to the body of Council. Some of our agenda impacts me personally - in agenda item DC-2, I am now one of three Council Members who are targeted by the Mayor for removal from board and commission appointments. I am the subject of allegations, which I vehemently deny. (See "Special Session" below.) Council Member Ramlawi and I took seriously the concerns of a whistleblower and agenda item DC-2 is the consequence of that.


The most significant item on our Consent Agenda is CA-25, which allocates $1,093,021.50 from the General Fund to support 6-month transition grants for area nonprofit service providers. This is a response to the end of the Coordinated Funding program and in anticipation of a new Human Services Partnership that is currently being developed between the City and the County. More information about that can be found here:

https://www.washtenaw.org/3422/New-Human-Services-Partnership-Planning


The biggest issue on this week’s regular agenda is probably the Climate Action Millage, both putting it on the ballot (DC-3) and approving the resolution of intent on how to spend it (DC-4). For more on that, see my "Additional Thoughts" section below.


SPECIAL SESSION

Council met in Special Session this week in order to waive privilege on and publicly release an investigative report regarding a complaint against our Assistant (then Acting) City Administrator. I urge everyone to read both the complaint and the report. The investigator concluded that the complaint was unfounded and she included additional accusations and speculation (“outside of the scope of the investigation”) that found fault with and attributed blame to two council members. Links to the complaints, the report, and my response are below.


My statement on this issue:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/response-to-investigative-report-released-december-2-2021


The two complaints can be found here:

https://a2gov.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=10316726&GUID=929396D3-35D8-4044-BE91-E4498E849886


https://a2gov.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=10316718&GUID=1381D29D-2893-4974-B490-1A9E6AD30DC0


The investigative report can be found here:

https://a2gov.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=10316725&GUID=0DFB3FA7-19C4-4C6F-B8D9-5EC4F8BDACD1


Questions about how Council Members meet their responsibilities, how the City responds to whistleblowers, and how our organization addresses conflicts of interest are very much in the public interest. Answers to these questions are quite a lot more significant than any single Council Member. Right now, I am a whole lot more concerned about the integrity of our institutional systems moving forward than I am concerned about how current maneuvers impact me personally. Our community deserves better than what we have seen this week.

 

COVID Emergency Rental Assistance

Anyone who is behind on rent or concerned they will be behind on rent should apply for COVID Emergency Rental assistance through Washtenaw County - this post has more information and a link to the County's website.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/covid-emergency-rental-assistance


Barrier Busters

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:

https://www.washtenaw.org/2818/Barrier-Buster-Agency-Provider-List


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

http://www.housingaccess.net/


Coffee Hours

Sunday Dec 5th 3:00pm

I hold coffee hours Sunday afternoons at 3pm before City Council meetings. This week I will be holding them on Zoom. Please email me for a link: contact@A2ELNEL.com


City Council Regular Meeting

Monday Dec 6th 7:00pm

My summary of the meeting agenda is posted below in this newsletter.

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=829784&GUID=2058E4ED-C615-4260-873A-16F3583869F7

 

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 Nov 15, 2021

This was the last regularly scheduled Council meeting.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/city-council-voting-chart-for-nov-15-2021


City Council Voting Chart for Dec 1, 2021

This was a special session to waive privilege and release an Investigative Report in response to a complaint filed by the HR Director against the Assistant (then Acting) City Administrator.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/city-council-voting-chart-for-dec-1-2021


Response to Investigative Report Released December 2, 2021

My statement on the investigative report released this week.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/response-to-investigative-report-released-december-2-2021


Thanksgiving 2021 Quiz

In case you missed it, I created a holiday message composed of forty-one characters, taken from forty-one different locations in Ward 4! Can you guess where they came from? The answers are given at the bottom of the post.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/thanksgiving-2021-quiz

 

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.

https://www.a2elnel.com/a2council

http://a2council.com

 

Council Meeting Agenda 12/6/21

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:

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=829784&GUID=2058E4ED-C615-4260-873A-16F3583869F7

Ann Arbor City Council Monday Dec 6th (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-2 (21-2199) Agenda Response Memo and eComments - December 6, 2021

This agenda item has a PDF attachment with all questions raised by Council Members, and the answers provided by staff.

 

Communications from Council


CC-1 (21-2202) Resolution to Appoint Joshua Meisler, Cynthia Harrison, Nathaniel Graulich, and Randy Milgrom to the Independent Community Police Oversight Commission

These appointments are from CM Ramlawi and CM Song, who serve on the Independent Community Police Oversight Commission, and CM Nelson and CM Radina, who serve on the Human Rights Commision. This will be voted on at the next Council meeting.

  • Nathaniel Graulich - Independent Community Police Oversight Commission

  • Cynthia Harrison - Independent Community Police Oversight Commission

  • Joshua Meisler - Independent Community Police Oversight Commission

  • Randy Milgrom - Independent Community Police Oversight Commission

 

Communications from the Mayor


MC-1 (21-1992) Nominations and Appointments for December 6, 2021

These appointments from the Mayor are being presented at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting.

  • Katherine White - Board of Review

  • Ryan Dibble - Board of Review

  • Alice Owings - Board of Review 2

  • Patti Smith - Recreation Advisory Commission

  • Nicholas Crowe - Recreation Advisory Commission

  • Kurt Svoboda - Recreation Advisory Commission

 

Consent Agenda

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 (21-2002) Resolution to Approve Participation in the Purchase of a Conservation Easement on the Renz Land Co, LLC Property in Scio Township, Approve a Participation Agreement with Scio Township and Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission, and Appropriate $432,334.00 (8 Votes Required)


CA-2 (21-2003) Resolution to Approve a Participation Agreement with Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission and Appropriate $230,000.00 for Purchase of Fee Title to the John S. Russell Property (8 Votes Required)


CA-3 (21-2004) Resolution to Approve a Participation Agreement with Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission and Appropriate $1,071,750.00 for Purchase of Fee Title to the Maisel Property (8 Votes Required)


CA-4 (21-1938) Resolution to Rename Winchell Park to Dr. Harold J. Lockett Park


CA-5 (21-1684) Resolution to Approve an Increase to the Purchase Order with Wastequip Manufacturing Company, LLC for Bulk Solid Waste and Recycling Equipment ($75,504.00 Total Purchase $90,000.00)


CA-6 (21-1920) Resolution to Prohibit On-Street Parking on the North side of Winchell Drive from Brockman Boulevard to 175 Feet East of Hall Avenue


CA-7 (21-1915) Resolution to Approve a Professional Services Agreement with Wade Trim Associates, Inc. for Engineering Design Services for the State and Hill Streets Improvements Project ($449,034.00) (RFP 21-27)


CA-8 (21-1893) Resolution to Approve an Agreement with the Michigan Department of Transportation for the Maintenance and Operation of a Continuously Operating Reference Station


CA-9 (21-1917) Resolution to Approve Amendment No. 2 to the Professional Services Agreement with Stantec Consulting Michigan, Inc., for Water Treatment Professional Engineering Services ($400,000.00 increase, total contract $1,250,000.00)


CA-10 (21-1755) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of two Fingerprint Booking Systems through Oakland County CLEMIS from IDEMIA Identity & Security USA LLC ($33,424.00).


CA-11 (21-1928) Resolution to Increase Purchasing Authority to Lumen Technologies Group for Purchase of Wireless Networking Equipment, Software and Related Services ($36,033.14) Increasing Purchasing Authority from $99,000.57 to $135,033.71 Under the Current Contract


CA-12 (21-1947) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order to Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) for the Annual Geographic Information System Software Maintenance and License Agreement ($51,600.00)


CA-13 (21-1948) Resolution to Approve a Five-Year Lease Between the City of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan For City-Owned Property Behind 926 Mary Street ($4500.00 annually) (8 Votes Required)


CA-14 (21-2063) Resolution Setting a Public Hearing on January 3, 2022, to Receive Public Comment on the Proposed Industrial Development District No. 2021-001


CA-15 (21-2062) Resolution Approving Amendment 3 to the Professional Services Agreement with Harper Electric, Inc. for On-Call City Electrical Services (Not to Exceed $525,000.00)


CA-16 (21-2064) Resolution to Approve Agreement Between the City of Ann Arbor and the Downtown Development Authority of the City of Ann Arbor Regarding Responsibilities and Cost Allocation for the Installation of 80 Electric Vehicle Chargers in Public Parking Spaces and Authorize City Share ($367,200.00)


CA-17 (21-1913) Resolution to Approve an Amendment to the Professional Services Agreement with Rivenoak Law Group, P.C. for Legal Services Relative to Sustainability Initiatives ($85,000 annually)


CA-18 (21-1909) Resolution to Accept Grant Funds from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy and Appropriate to the Fleet Fund to reimburse the purchase of an Electric Refuse Truck ($465,602). (8 Votes Required)


CA-19 (21-1910) Resolution to Accept Grant Funds from the American Lung Association and Appropriate to the Major Grant Funds to reimburse some of the costs to purchase an Electric Refuse Truck ($270,000) (8 Votes Required)


CA-20 (21-1912) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of One Rear Loading Electric Refuse Truck from Bell Equipment Company (Sourcewell - $601,205.00)


CA-21 (21-1881) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of a Mini Rear Load Refuse Truck from Fredrickson Supply LLC (CoPro+ - $127,074.00)


CA-22 (21-1967) Resolution to Authorize the Purchase of One Wood Chipper from Bandit Industries Inc. (MiDeal - $35,300.00)


CA-23 (21-1902) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of Vehicles from Signature Ford (Macomb County Cooperative Purchasing - $97,112.00)


CA-24 (21-2136) Resolution to Approve the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the City of Ann Arbor and Ann Arbor Police Professional Assistants effective January 1, 2022 - December 31, 2024


CA-25 (21-2065) Resolution to Approve and Appropriate FY 22 Budget and Allocations for 6-month Transition Grants to Non-Profit Entities for Human Services - $1,093,021.50 (General Fund) (8 Votes Required)

 

Public Hearings

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/DB-1 (21-1942) Resolution to Approve 106 North Fourth Avenue Site Plan at 106 North Fourth Avenue (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 8 Yeas and 0 Nays)

Approval of a site plan for 106 North Fourth Avenue will allow for construction of a two story, 910 square foot addition at the rear of an existing one story office building. It is within the Fourth-Ann Historic district and the City Historic Commission Council approval is required because this addition is more than 10% of the existing building.

 

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.

There are no ordinance second readings on the Agenda.

 

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 (21-1923) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 2:25, 2:26, and 2:38 of Chapter 27 (Water Service) of Title II of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor

An ordinance amendment will create an “Opt out” provision for properties that are not equipped with a device that allows automatic or remote reading of a water meter. Where the public services area is not able to install, repair or replace a meter, water may be cut off or property owners may be assessed a surcharge under an “opt out” provision. Rules and regulations governing requests, eligibility, and requirements for opt-outs from the automatic remote reading device requirement will be established by the administrator of the Public Services department.


C-2 (21-1956) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 5.22.3 (Storm Water Management and Soil Erosion) and 5.29.6 (Site Plans) of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor

An amendment to the Unified Development Code will change the city process for revision and approval of site plans. Site plans not associated to rezoning petitions will now be reviewed by the planning commission, rather than City Council. Site plans will no longer be required for construction of up to four residential units (current threshold is two units). Up to six residential units may be approved by the Planning Manager, without the review of Planning Commission.


C-3 (21-2043) An Ordinance to Repeal and Replace Chapter 113 (Regulation of Use of Model Glues) of Title IX (Police Regulations) of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor

An ordinance amendment updates the list of substances considered intoxicating agents, clarifies that operating a motor vehicle while under their influence is a violation whether or not they were ingested legally, and updates pronouns for gender neutral language.


C-4 (21-2068) An Ordinance to Repeal and Replace Chapter 115 (Weapons and Explosives) of Title IX (Police Regulations) of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor

An ordinance is repealed and replaced to add Juneteenth and Indigenous Peoples Day to the list of referenced national holidays, add forfeiture of a firearm to penalties, incorporate state law and International Fire Code (IFC) definitions, and update pronouns for gender neutral language.

 

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 (21-2074) Resolution to Approve 2022 Council Calendar

Approval of the Council Calendar will set the dates for City Council meetings and work sessions during 2022.


DC-2 (21-2081) Resolution to Approve 2022 Council Committee Appointments

Council appointments to boards, commissions and committees for the upcoming year are changed.

  • Council Member Hayner now has no Council appointed positions.

  • Council Members Briggs, Disch, Eyer, and Grand take positions formerly held by CM Hayner.

  • Council Member Nelson is removed from Budget & Labor committee.

  • Council Member Ramlawi is removed from Budget & Labor and Council Administrative committees.

  • Council Members Disch, Grand and Radina take positions formerly held by CM Nelson and CM Ramlawi.

DB-1 (21-1942) Resolution to Approve 106 North Fourth Avenue Site Plan at 106 North Fourth Avenue (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 8 Yeas and 0 Nays)

This is the same as PH-1 above.


DC-3 (21-2159) Resolution to Order Election and to Determine Ballot Question for Charter Amendment for a Community Climate Action Millage (7 Votes Required)

A Climate Action Millage would be put on the ballot in a special election on May 3, 2022. The millage of 1.0 is projected to collect $6,800,000 over twenty years. See my "Additional Thoughts" section below.


DC-4 (21-2160) Resolution of Intent on the Use and Administration of the Community Climate Action Millage

A Resolution of Intent lists the planned use and administration of funds collected from a proposed Climate Action Millage. See my "Additional Thoughts" section below.


DC-5 (21-2172) Resolution to Encourage and Accelerate the Use of Low Embodied Carbon Building Materials in Construction

A resolution directs the City Administrator to develop a criteria regarding low embodied building materials in municipal operations and provide an annual report to City Council and Energy Commission about projects that utilize them. Educational resource materials will be provided on the City website and the City Administrator will conduct public outreach on the topic.


DC-6 (21-2201) Resolution Requesting the DDA to Extend the Curb Side Carry Out Program until May 31, 2022

Council requests that the DDA extend the Curb Side Carry Out Program and continue the repurposing of 148 regular metered parking spaces through May 31, 2022. These spaces are repurposed to support dozens of local downtown business who must rely on take-out business in order to financially survive.


 

Additional thoughts…


Thoughts on the Climate Action Millage Proposal

On this week's Council agenda, item DC-3 would approve a ballot question for a Climate Action Millage (1.0 for twenty years). Agenda item DC-4 would approve a resolution of intent on how to spend it.


DC-3 Resolution to Order Election and to Determine Ballot Question for Charter Amendment for a Community Climate Action Millage (7 Votes Required)

https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5342576&GUID=81B314AE-8E5F-4483-9774-92948C1BA38B


DC-4 Resolution of Intent on the Use and Administration of the Community Climate Action Millage

https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5342581&GUID=AF5DCA29-9778-4BB6-B64D-C46A0056744C



BACKGROUND

Mayor Taylor first introduced the idea of a Climate Action Millage at the July 6, 2021 Council Meeting. This idea prompted a good bit of communication to Council and a lot of discussion online. I was surprised by some of the reaction I saw. I can’t help but compare it to what I heard in reaction to the proposal for last year’s Affordable Housing Millage.


When I cosponsored the Affordable Housing Millage, many people reached out to me with concerns about the cost of it. They argued that the cost of the millage would cause problems for people who currently have housing but are less-than-secure in it. The cost of any millage impacts both homeowners and renters (presumably landlords pass on the cost). I cosponsored the Affordable Housing Millage because I was enthusiastic about plans to subsidize housing units for people who do not already have housing. I was excited about what could be built on City property that I had helped designate for the purpose of developing affordable housing.


Response to the proposed Climate Action Millage was very different. After Mayor Taylor’s announcement, I heard from residents who pointed out where and how they had personally invested in climate action, the money they had spent installing solar panels and/or geothermal systems, and their deep commitment to the issue. They opposed the idea of a millage not because they lacked interest in climate action (or didn’t believe in science) but because they did not believe that the Mayor’s proposal for a local tax was likely to result in any meaningful results. Their argument: this proposal for a tax is unlikely to achieve anything like what needs to happen to address this issue.


RESOLUTION OF INTENT

The Resolution of Intent for Use of this millage includes a list. Briefly, that list is:

  • composting, sustainable food, and material recovery/reuse programs

  • community education, bulk discount and other subsidies for renewable energy (solar and geothermal). Design and construction of renewable energy installations on public property.

  • energy/water efficiency and weatherization programs (at least 40% directed to low income residents)

  • efforts to foster neighborhood community and resilience centers, heat and flood monitoring and management systems.

  • protected bike lanes, crosswalk infrastructure, and neighborhood walking paths

  • energy waste reduction and efficiency programs, educational forums and rental housing weatherization.

  • electrified transit and EV chargers at locations around the city, education programs around electrification.

I understand that some local climate action leaders may publicly oppose this millage, for reasons similar to that initial reaction from residents: meaningful climate action is not the bike lanes, weatherization and resilience centers proposed in this resolution of intent. Again, this is not a difference of opinion between people who believe in science and people who do not. It is not a difference of opinion between people who care about climate action and people who do not. Some advocates for climate action wonder: what will this really achieve? And is this really the best that Ann Arbor can do?


COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

Council and staff have been reluctant to explore alternative ideas, even from advocates. Municipal power is a recent example of this. On September 7, 2021, I brought a resolution to Council asking for meaningful consideration of sustainable municipal power and specifically whether or not a feasibility study should be funded. This was not an issue I had previously been involved in, but I was sympathetic to concerns raised by advocates: the topic of this feasibility study had been delayed at the commission level for months. I do not claim any expertise on this issue, but I appreciate the expertise of others. I respect the opinion of Ann Arbor leaders like State Representative Yousef Rabhi and State Senator Jeff Irwin, who endorse the idea.


A few weeks after Council passed a resolution asking the Energy Commission to consider and discuss a feasibility study for a sustainable public municipal utility, the Office of Sustainability and Innovations announced a different plan for sustainable power: a Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU). The SEU supports microgrids and community solar, while DTE service would continue. Residents would have the option to sign a service contract with the SEU to supplement their service from DTE. It is worth noting that unlike municipal power, the SEU plan was entirely new, and had never previously been discussed by any commission or at Council.


MOVING FORWARD

Since the Affordable Housing millage passed, people - some of whom supported that millage - have asked me about how the money will be spent moving forward. It is important to me and others that the millage money subsidize affordable housing directly and effectively. We look ahead to a process of partnering with developers but some worry about how this process might potentially subsidize profit margins instead of additional housing.


I believe we should be asking similar questions about how this climate action millage will directly and effectively fund the goals we aim to achieve. Advocates differ on what best strategies might be. In order for our community to embrace this question in any meaningful way, I believe that the resolution of intent must be subject to more conversation, at a minimum within our boards and commissions. I will support putting this millage on the ballot because I agree that resources must be invested in this work and I believe in the public’s right to decide these questions. However, I am going to ask that the Resolution of Intent (DC-4) be postponed, so that it can be reviewed and discussed at the Energy and Environmental Commissions.



Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!

Elizabeth Nelson


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