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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 (Jan 16, 2022)

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 Council meeting will happen on Tuesday (instead of Monday), due to the Martin Luther King Jr holiday. Our agenda includes three public hearings and resolutions that move us forward in tackling snow removal, streetlight reliability, workforce housing, and sustainable local power.


The resolution in DC-3 is long overdue - almost a year ago, Council Member Ramlawi asked for a similar assessment of downtown snow removal issues in collaboration with downtown partners. Last winter, a majority of Council voted to refer CM Ramlawi’s to the Transportation Commission, which has resulted in nearly a year delay. I wrote about it here:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/reflections-on-feb-16th-council-meeting


Agenda item DC-6 is similarly a delayed action: last August, I sponsored a resolution asking for focused discussion and recommendation regarding a feasibility study for municipal power. I wrote about it in advance of our meeting:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/feasibility-study-for-a-public-power-utility-in-ann-arbor


A majority of Council blocked that particular resolution with a last minute substitution that effectively delayed discussion for months. I wrote about it at the time:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/political-games-and-distractions


I am glad to see the feasibility study finally on our agenda, though the wording of DC-6 is quite broad. It is hard to tell whether the directives in DC-6 will lead us to an informed decision about municipal power or simply organize arguments against it. I welcome feedback from local advocates and members of the City’s Energy Commission, who asked for preparation of this resolution.

 

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 Jan 16th 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

Tuesday Jan 18th 7:00pm

Because of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, this week's Council meeting is on Tuesday. Also note that starting in January 2022, Council Meetings will be IN PERSON at City Council chambers. Public commentary is still available via phone - see the Legistar link for details.

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=911694&GUID=0B926AAA-6B1F-4F4E-98CD-5FBA531F313E

Note: since publishing this newsletter, the Legistar link to the Jan 18th meeting has changed:

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=931752&GUID=81AAAA19-827D-47B5-9A61-91569CB66567

 

American Rescue Plan Update

The City set up one overview session and seven project focused sessions to discuss how the American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds might be distributed. These sessions began last week, and the remaining four project sessions will be held this week on Wednesday and Thursday.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/american-rescue-plan-public-engagement-sessions-jan-12-20-2022


Also note that that according to the City's webpage, "project overviews will not be provided during the meetings". The webpage also mentions that "Participants are highly encouraged to watch overview videos before joining the question-and-answer sessions."


To find the overview videos, scroll to the bottom of the City's webpage for the APR engagement sessions. The Zoom link for the meetings is also on this webpage.

https://www.a2gov.org/departments/systems-planning/Pages/American-Rescue-Plan-Act-Funding--.aspx


Project Focused Q&A Sessions


Wednesday, January 19

12-1:30 p.m. Housing for Homeless Households & Property Acquisition for Affordable Housing

4-5:30 p.m. Fire Station 4 (Huron Parkway) – First Net Zero Fire Station in Michigan & Solar on City Facilities

6-7 p.m. City Clerk Election Center


Thursday, January 20

4-5:30 p.m. Universal Basic Income & Coordinated Funding Support

 

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 Jan 3, 2022

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/city-council-voting-chart-for-jan-3-2022


South Maple Construction Notice

South Maple Road between West Liberty Street and Scio Church Road will be detoured from Monday, January 10th 9AM through Friday, January 21st 5PM. The detour map and more information is below:

https://www.a2elnel.com//post/south-maple-detour-jan-10-21-2022


2022 Downtown Ann Arbor Block Closure Survey due Jan 24th

The Main Street Area Association is hosting a public survey on whether to close downtown streets to traffic in 2022, with responses due by Jan 24, 2022.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/2022-downtown-ann-arbor-block-closure-survey-due-jan-24th


A2ZERO Ambassador applications due Jan 18 (Program starts Feb 2022)

The third cohort of the A2ZERO Ambassador program will begin in Feb 2022, and the City is looking for 30 participants. Applications are due Jan 18, 2022.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/a2zero-ambassador-applications-due-jan-18-program-starts-feb-2022


Winners of Golden Paintbrush Award Announced, Community Voting until Mar 11th

The Ann Arbor Public Art Commission announce four winners of the 2021 Golden Paintbrush Awards. Voting is open until March 11th for the "Community Voice Selection".

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/winners-of-golden-paintbrush-award-announced-community-voting-until-mar-11th


League of American Bicyclists article about Ann Arbor

The League of American Bicyclists recently designated Ann Arbor as a Gold-level Bicycle Friendly Community, and earlier this week posted a follow-up story.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/league-of-american-bicyclists-article-about-ann-arbor

 

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 1/18/22

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=911694&GUID=0B926AAA-6B1F-4F4E-98CD-5FBA531F313E

Note: since publishing this newsletter, the Legistar link to the Jan 18th meeting has changed:

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=931752&GUID=81AAAA19-827D-47B5-9A61-91569CB66567

Ann Arbor City Council Tuesday Jan 18th (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-3 (22-0112) Agenda Response Memo and eComments - January 18, 2022

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

 

Communications from the Mayor


MC-1 (22-0005) Appointments - Confirmations

This appointment from the Mayor was presented at the previous meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting.

  • John Splitt - Downtown Area Citizens’ Advisory Council

MC-2 (22-0036) Appointments - Nominations - January 18, 2022

This appointment from the Mayor is being presented at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting.

  • Steve Palms - Downtown Citizens’ 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 (21-2213) Resolution to Award a Construction Contract to SAK Construction, LLC ($5,946,305.00, Bid No. ITB-4693) for the 2020 & 2021 Sewer Lining Project


CA-2 (21-2266) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of One Vehicle from Signature Ford (MiDeal Bid - $47,400.00)


CA-3 (22-0029) Resolution to Approve Street Closings for the Shamrocks and Shenanigans 5K Run/Walk - Sunday, March 13, 2022


CA-4 (22-0031) Resolution to Approve Street Closings for the University of Michigan Big House 5K on Sunday, April 10, 2022


CA-5 (22-0034) Resolution Authorizing Summary Publication of Ordinance 21-37 - 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 - Amendments to Storm Water Management and Soil Erosion and Site Plans


CA-6 (22-0048) Resolution to Approve the DDA Board’s Hire of an Executive Director

 

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/B-1 (21-1752) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) Zoning of .4 Acres from TWP (Township District) to R1B (Single-Family Dwelling District), 559 Riverview Drive (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 9 Yeas and 0 Nays) (ORD-21-40)

A recently annexed parcel of .4 acres located at 559 Riverview Drive will be rezoned from TWP (Township District) to R1B (Single-Family Dwelling District). The proposed zoning is consistent with the adjacent zoning, the surrounding land uses, and the City's Comprehensive Plan


PH-2/B-2 (21-2255) An Ordinance to Repeal and Replace Section 9:62 of Chapter 108 (Disorderly Conduct) of Title IX (Police Regulations) of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (ORD-22-01)

A city ordinance regarding disorderly conduct would be repealed and replaced to add existing penalties, alter pronouns for gender neutral language, and remove provisions already covered by state law (Crime Victim’s Rights Act of 1985). These amendments are part of a Reform Project and will go into effect on April 15, 2022. See my "Additional Thoughts" section below.


PH-3/DB-1 (21-2250) Resolution to Approve the Annexation of 5 properties Associated with The Village of Ann Arbor Site Plan for City Council Including 1680 Dhu Varren (67.599 acres), 2670 Pontiac Trail (1.859 Acres), 2672 Pontiac Trail (1.256 Acres), 2678 Pontiac Trail (1.245 Acres), and 2682 Pontiac Trail (1.248 Acres) (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 9 Yeas and 0 Nays)

Five properties totally 73.2 acres that are currently part of Ann Arbor township will be annexed into the City: 1680 Dhu Varren (67.599 acres), 2670 Pontiac Trail (1.859 Acres), 2672 Pontiac Trail (1.256 Acres), 2678 Pontiac Trail (1.245 Acres), and 2682 Pontiac Trail (1.248 Acres). These properties are associated with a site plan for The Village of Ann Arbor that will include single- family homes, townhomes, and stacked multiple-family units at a density of less than 10 dwelling units per acre. At a future meeting, Council will vote on a request for R4A (multiple-family) zoning.

 

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 (21-1752) is the same as PH-1 above.

B-2 (21-2255) 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.


There are no ordinance first readings on the Agenda

 

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.


DB-1 (21-2250) is the same as PH-3 above.


DC-1 (22-0022) Resolution Condemning Antisemitism

A resolution condemning antisemitism “calls upon the persons who rally to express antisemitism on Washtenaw Avenue to renounce extremism, disband, and cease their weekly show of aggressive bigotry” and affirms “support for the Beth Israel Congregation, their guests, and all members of the Jewish Community in Ann Arbor, each of whom has the right to worship, gather, and celebrate free from intimidation, harassment, and fear of violence.” See my "Additional Thoughts" section below.


DC-2 (22-0095) Resolution to Begin Discussions with University of Michigan (U-M) for 2,000 Units of Workforce Housing on U-M’s North Campus and Agreement on Additional Student and Employee Residential Units Commensurable with U-M’s Growth

The City Administrator is directed to organize a dialogue among federal, state and local elected officials and University of Michigan leaders to discuss the development of 2000 units of workforce housing on UM North Campus. He will discuss this topic at quarterly UM policy meetings and report progress to City Council.


DC-3 (22-0097) Resolution to Improve the Safety and Accessibility of Sidewalks in the Winter

The City Administrator is directed to analyze the staffing and cost required to clear snow on city-owned sidewalks and paths on the same timeline as is required for private property owners. City code amendments will be prepared to allow for discretion and educational opportunities in enforcement. The City Administrator will pursue better snow clearing strategies in the DDA district in collaboration with downtown partners and also encourage AAPS to clear snow on sidewalks adjacent to their properties.


DC-4 (22-0099) Resolution Concerning the Need for Reliability Improvements and Technical Upgrades for DTE Streetlights

City staff are directed to work with DTE to improve reliability, safety and efficiency of streetlights. Staff will provide testimony in the next DTE Electric Rate case, advocating for shorter service restoration times, accelerated/prioritized restoration based on location, and technology improvements.


DC-5 (22-0101) Resolution Concerning the City’s Streetlight System, Prioritization of Equipment Upgrades, and Improvements to Outage Reporting and Minimizing Repair Times

The City will collaborate with DTE and University of Michigan to identify and address streetlight outages and improve response time. In anticipation of the FY 2023 Budget, staff will assess and report the cost of upgrading all City-owned and DTE-owned streetlights to LED and the cost of scaling up the connected “smart city” streetlights pilot to at least 10% of the City’s streetlights. For the next three years, City staff will offer quarterly reports on all known streetlight outages (both City- and DTE-owned) that last for more than five consecutive days.


DC-6 (22-0076) Resolution Requesting the Completion of a Feasibility Study Regarding Creation of a Traditional Municipal Electric Utility and an Evaluation of Other Energy Pathways to Achieve the City’s Clean Energy Goals, Along with Initiation of Next Steps to Advance a Local Municipal Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU)

The City Administrator is directed to create a Request for Proposals (RFP) to “study the technical, legal, and financial viability of multiple potential pathways” toward sustainable energy. The study of “multiple pathways” will include a detailed technical, financial and rate analysis of a municipal electric utility that would replace DTE as well as a Sustainable Electric Utility that would supplement DTE service. This resolution also directs the City Administrator to propose a governance model for, conduct public outreach about, and draft an ordinance to formally create a Sustainable Electric Utility.


 

Additional thoughts…


Since our last meeting, most of my email has been on three topics: the allocation of American Rescue Plan funds, the suggestion that Ann Arbor decriminalize sex work, and resolution DC-1 on this week’s agenda.


ARP FUNDING RECOMMENDATIONS

The City hosted four public engagement meetings this past week and four more are planned for this coming week (see links above in this newsletter). I attended the overview session last Tuesday night, where many participants in the ZOOM chat box questioned the current list of recommendations, what was missing from it, and who had participated in making it. I have received a number of emails this week communicating similar concerns about the current process for public engagement.


The public engagement happening now is a result of my urging that we make time for more community conversation about these recommendations. In October, I wrote about the original, accelerated plan for final approval (and my reservations about it):

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/prioritizing-american-rescue-plan-funds


DECRIMINALIZING SEX WORK

At our last meeting, Council approved amendments to a city ordinance that defines and sets penalties for “disorderly conduct.” That approval was “first reading” and so the amendments return to our agenda this week for a public hearing and final approval at “second reading” (PH-2/B-2). Approval of B-2 will (among other things) retain the specific section of our city ordinance that includes participation in acts of prostitution as “disorderly conduct” subject to a penalty. At our last Council meeting, local advocates for the legalization of sex work called in with public comment. MLive wrote about it:

https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/2022/01/sex-worker-group-urges-ann-arbor-officials-to-strike-down-local-prostitution-law.html


You can learn more about a local movement for decriminalization here:

https://answerdetroit.org/


This week, I have received many emails expressing alarm that the City might consider changing local ordinances in order to remove all reference to and penalties for participation in acts of prostitution. All of Council has heard from local and national organizations who work to rescue victims of human trafficking. Advocates have urged us to consider the value of local ordinances in addressing the problem of human trafficking.


You can learn more about work against human trafficking here:

https://michiganabolitionistproject.org/

https://sanctumhouse.org/

https://polarisproject.org/


Our City attorney spoke to MLive in defense of our local ordinance:

“Having this charge available allows police to investigate those cases of involuntary sex work, like human trafficking and child abuse,” he said. “Decriminalizing something does not make all related problems suddenly disappear. The city of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County are not immune from the tragedies of human trafficking and pandering. Sex trafficking is one of the most under-reported crimes and can result in one of the most traumatic of life experiences for the victims.”

https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/2022/01/ann-arbor-city-attorney-defends-prostitution-law-amid-calls-to-decriminalize-sex-work.html


RESOLUTION AGAINST PROTESTS

Events in Texas this weekend are a reminder of the broad, national context of resolution DC-1. There is no denying that rising antisemitism around the country is a real and considerable threat to members of the Jewish faith. There is also local context to the resolution in DC-1.


The resolution in DC-1 references specific protest activities at a local synagogue, which have taken place weekly for eighteen years. In 2004, City Council passed a resolution in response to these protests. You can find that resolution embedded in Council meeting minutes from Oct 18, 2004 (this is a "pre-Legistar" meeting, so you will need to search the meeting minutes for 'R-446-10-04' to find the wording of the legislation)

https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=264721&GUID=6C5F55F0-49B6-4E35-86BD-43BE1AFC0CD5&Options=Advanced&Search=&FullText=1


These protests are now the subject of litigation brought by members of the synagogue against the protesters and against the City itself. In the context of that litigation, the City’s legal department has recently argued that these protests are protected political speech, that they "are not directed at the plaintiffs or any specific person, nor do they advocate or incite direct violence against the plaintiffs, their fellow congregants, the synagogue, Israel, or Jews.”


I look forward to substantive discussion of this resolution on Tuesday night, based on advice and information received. The nature of these local protests - targeting members of our community who are simply practicing their religion in peace - is abhorrent and I agree with everyone who denounces them as hostile, offensive, and inappropriate. However, the City itself has defended the legality of these protests as protected political speech. While I can vote in support of a resolution like DC-1, I fear that it mostly attracts more attention to the protesters, which is exactly what they want.


For anyone interested in reading more about the local protests referenced in resolution DC-1 (as well as the ongoing litigation surrounding them), below are links that might be informative:

https://thejewishnews.com/2020/08/21/judge-dismisses-lawsuit-against-protesters-at-ann-arbor-synagogue/

https://www.courthousenews.com/michigan-jewish-community-argues-for-ban-on-protests-outside-synagogue/

https://www.aclumich.org/en/cases/synagogue-protesters


Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!

Elizabeth Nelson


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