Elizabeth Nelson's City Council Blog

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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.
I post charts of how Council voted after each meeting, and also post my perspectives on how issues were resolved. I post news that affects Ward 4 residents tagged with "Ward 4 News", with construction updates also tagged "Construction 2021". News that affects all city residents is tagged with "City News".

City Council Newsletter (Jan 2, 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 after winter holidays, we have a very short agenda with only two public hearings, release and distribution of the A2 Vision Zero transportation plan, reconsideration of a purchase order from our last meeting, and a resolution to join the Washtenaw Regional Resource Management Authority. I write about the latter two topics in my "Additional Thoughts" section at the bottom of this newsletter.


I hope everyone had a lovely holiday if you celebrated one these last two weeks. Turning the page on 2020 feels like something to celebrate across all faiths and belief systems! On the last day of 2020, I attended a public event asking for the University of Michigan to offer campus building space for use as emergency shelter. The protest was organized by a social worker from the Delonis Center, Jaz Brennan, who has seen our community needs up close.


I am encouraged by ongoing community conversation about this issue. Jaz Brennan wrote about it for Groundcover News:

https://justus.press/2020/12/15/do-you-see-us/


This week, the Michigan Daily also published an excellent article on the topic:

https://www.michigandaily.com/section/ann-arbor/city-looks-partner-u-m-house-ann-arbor%E2%80%99s-homeless-population-residence-halls



STR Ordinance Update

At our last meeting, a majority of Council voted to request amendments to our short term rental ordinance. This week, I wrote a blog post about how seriously this decision contradicts previously established housing positions and policies. I also shared the somewhat ridiculous (but very desperate) attempt of one investor/advocate to persuade me on the topic. My blog post can be found here:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/housing-profits-and-hypocrisy


A few loud voices online (including a couple of my colleagues) have responded to my essay without addressing any of the policy referenced in it. Instead of reasoning the merits of policy, I’ve seen attacks on my commitment to Council, saber-rattling about a non-existent “breach of duty” and general insults calling me a liar. I need to state clearly: I am not intimidated by these distractions. Council has an obligation to craft policy in the best interest of the community at large. I will continue to question policies that are inconsistent with community values and I will continue to call out decisions that benefit small special interests.


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



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Virtual Coffee Hours

Sunday Jan 3rd 3:00pm

During the COVID-19 crisis I have been holding "virtual" coffee hours with Zoom on Sunday afternoons before scheduled City Council meetings. Please email me for a link:

contact@a2elnel.com


Council Caucus

Sunday Jan 3rd 6:00pm (note new start time)

We have been holding Council Caucus on Sunday nights before Council meetings since March 2019. All Council Members are invited to participate. During the COVID-19 crisis, we are holding Caucus via Zoom. Please check the Legistar link below for the latest information

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=827983&GUID=7471F8DE-A669-4266-BA14-7928B79E95B8


City Council Meeting

Monday Jan 4th 7:00pm

Council is meeting again using the Zoom application. The video feed will be broadcast on CTN and YouTube. Public comment is audio only using dial-in numbers. Please check the Legistar link below for the latest information.

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=820568&GUID=E572DA0D-4B7D-461E-92F6-20EF40BC6C6F

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 Dec 21, 2020

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/city-council-voting-chart-for-dec-21-2020


Ann Arbor City Hall building closure extended to Jan 15th

To comply with new State orders, City Hall will be closed through Jan 15, 2021.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/ann-arbor-city-hall-building-closure-extended-to-jan-15th


Sidewalk Snow/Ice Removal Reminder from the City

The City is sending out postcards to remind residents, businesses and property owners to clear snow and ice from sidewalks.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/sidewalk-snow-ice-removal-reminder-from-the-city


Ward 4 from A to Z

The answers to my Ward 4 map puzzle have been posted.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/ward-4-from-a-to-z

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 1/4/21

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=820568&GUID=E572DA0D-4B7D-461E-92F6-20EF40BC6C6F

Ann Arbor City Council Monday Jan 4 (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 (21-0026) Agenda Response Memo and eComments

This agenda item will have a PDF attachment with all questions raised by Council Members, and the answers provided by staff. Because of the New Year's Day holiday, the document will be posted to Legistar on Monday afternoon before the Council meeting. (Update: the link was posted around 5pm the day of the Council meeting)

Communications from the Mayor


MC-1 (20-1914) Nominations and Appointments

These nominations from the Mayor were introduced at the previous meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting.

  • Jonathan Massey - Downtown Development Authority

  • Jordan Schreier - Employees’ Retirement System Board of Trustees

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 (20-1798) Resolution to Approve an Agreement with Washtenaw County on Behalf of Its Sheriff’s Office to Provide Drug Abuse Screening Services to Sobriety Court, Veterans Treatment Court, and Mental Health Court Participants ($39,899.00)


CA-2 (20-1799) Resolution to Approve an Agreement with Dawn, Inc., d/b/a Dawn Farm, to Provide Drug Abuse Counseling and Rehabilitative Services to Sobriety Court, Veterans Treatment Court, and Mental Health Court Participants ($106,375.00)


CA-3 (20-1800) Resolution to Approve an Agreement with Washtenaw County Community Mental Health to provide Mental Health Treatment Services to Sobriety Court and Mental Health Court Participants ($84,705.00)


CA-4 (20-1915) Resolution to Release an Easement (Liber 4701, Page 884) and Accept Replacement Water Main and Sanitary Sewer Easements at Blue Heron Pond of Ann Arbor Condominium from NDC - Blue Heron Pond, LLC (8 Votes Required)


CA-5 (20-1771) Resolution to Approve a Construction Contract with Z Contractors, Inc. for the City of Ann Arbor Bridge Capital Preventative Maintenance Repair Project ($1,042,460.77) (ITB 4647) and Appropriate $233,569.00 from the Street, Bridge & Sidewalk Millage Fund to the Existing Major Street Bridge Capital Preventative Maintenance Repair Project (8 Votes Required)


CA-6 (20-1772) Resolution to Approve a Professional Services Agreement with WSP Michigan Inc. for Construction Inspection Services ($158,379.92) for the Bridge Capital Preventative Maintenance Repair Project (RFP 20-32)


CA-7 (20-1802) Resolution to Approve Construction Contract Change Order No. 2 with RAM Construction Services of Michigan, Inc. for the Water Treatment Plant 2018 Architectural and Structural Repairs Project - ITB No. 4553 ($746,275.00)


CA-8 (20-1853) Resolution to Approve an Increase to the Purchase Order with Morton Salt, Inc. for Early Fill Supply Ice Control Salt ($18.93) for a Total Not to Exceed Amount of $61,168.93


CA-9 (20-1865) Resolution to Appropriate Funds from the Sewage Disposal System Fund Balance to the FY21 Sewage Disposal System Operating and Maintenance Budget ($900,000.00) for Sewer Inspection and Cleaning (8 Votes Required)


CA-10 (20-1946) Resolution to Ratify an Emergency Purchase Order Increase Request to Bell Equipment for Solid Waste Truck Rental ($66,090.95)


CA-11 (20-1782) Resolution to Approve Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan for the Hubbard Road/Huron Parkway Stormwater Outlet Repair Project ($210,000.00)

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 (20-1625) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) Zoning 26 City-Initiated Annexed Properties to RIC and R1D (Single Family Dwelling District) (CPC Recommendation: Approval 8 Yeas and 0 Nays) (ORD-20-31)

Twenty-six vacant parcels in Scio Township have been annexed into the city and City staff recommends that they be zoned R1C (Single-family dwelling) or R1D (Single-family dwelling). This proposed zoning would be consistent with adjacent going, master plan, and principle use of each of the twenty-six parcels.


PH-2/B-2 (20-1629) An Ordinance to Add Sections 5.14.2 And 5.27 And Amend Sections 5.18.4, 5.18.6.D, 5.23.4, 5.29.1, 5.29.3.F, 5.29.8.C, 5.29.12.D, 5.37.2.B, 5.37.2.C, 5.37.2.F, 5.37.2.L, 5.37.2.N, 5.37.2.M, And 5.37.2.S of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Floodplain Management Overlay District and Regulations)

An overlay zoning district would effectively regulate and restrict what can be built in the floodplain (two parts: flood way and flood fringe). If approved, the City would adopt stricter guidelines, using the 0.2% Annual Chance (“500 year flood”) to measure compliance with Base Flood Elevation (BFE). New structures cannot be built on a floodway and redeveloped structures must be elevated one foot above the 0.2% BFE. Critical facilities would be prohibited in the Flood Fringe, and other structures must be elevated one foot above the 0.2% BFE.

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 (20-1625) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) Zoning 26 City-Initiated Annexed Properties to RIC and R1D (Single Family Dwelling District) (CPC Recommendation: Approval 8 Yeas and 0 Nays) (ORD-20-31)

This is the same as PH-1 above.


B-2 (20-1629) An Ordinance to Add Sections 5.14.2 And 5.27 And Amend Sections 5.18.4, 5.18.6.D, 5.23.4, 5.29.1, 5.29.3.F, 5.29.8.C, 5.29.12.D, 5.37.2.B, 5.37.2.C, 5.37.2.F, 5.37.2.L, 5.37.2.N, 5.37.2.M, And 5.37.2.S of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Floodplain Management Overlay District and Regulations)

This 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 approval. If approved, the ordinance will be voted on at a subsequent Council meeting, where it will also be subject to a public hearing.

There are no ordinance first readings at this Council meeting.

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 (21-0004) Reconsideration of the Vote to Approve R-20-466, Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order with Axon Enterprise, Inc for FY21 In-Car Equipment Project Fund ($69,848.00 in FY21) for Axon Fleet Dashboard Cameras, Evidence.com Cloud Storage and Wi-Fi Offload Hardware Used in all Police Patrol Vehicles and related six-year quote ($348,308.00 Total)

This is a reconsideration of an item approved on the Consent Agenda of our last Council meeting. A purchase order for the Ann Arbor Police Department will equip 28 vehicles with dashboard cameras. Also included in this purchase is data storage (to “offload” video) and software maintenance. See my "Additional Thoughts" section below for more on this resolution.


DC-2 (20-1841) Resolution to Approve the City of Ann Arbor Membership in the Washtenaw Regional Resource Management Authority (WRRMA)

If approved, the City Administrator will take the necessary steps for Ann Arbor to join the Washtenaw Regional Resource Management Authority (WRRMA). The current members of WRRMA are: Ann Arbor Township, the City of Dexter, Pittsfield Charter Township, the City of Saline, the Township of Scio, the City of Ypsilanti, and the Charter Township of Ypsilanti. See my "Additional Thoughts" section below for more on this resolution.


DB-1 (20-1830) Resolution to Approve the Distribution of the Draft Plan, Ann Arbor Moving Together Towards Vision Zero - City of Ann Arbor Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CPC Recommendation: Approved - 6 Ayes and 0 Nays)

This will approve distribution of a transportation plan to neighboring community planning commissions, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, DTE Energy Services, Norfolk/Southern Railroad, MDOT, Washtenaw County Road Commission, AAATA, Ann Arbor Public Schools and other local stakeholders. Distribution is happening in advance of public hearings, review by the City Planning Commission, and an eventual vote by Council to approve/reject. This plan is the result of significant public engagement, survey, and assessment of current infrastructure. Outlined strategies are meant to support A2Zero climate goals, safety and accessibility (both regionally and across the city). The plan includes targets for lower speed limits, specific road treatments, sidewalk infrastructure, zoning for mixed use in residential areas, and enhanced transit options.


Additional thoughts…

This week, our agenda includes two topics that have been discussed at previous meetings: agenda item DC-1 is a purchase order that was approved on our Consent Agenda last month. Agenda item DC-2 is a resolution for Ann Arbor to join a regional solid waste authority, a choice that was first considered (and declined) in March 2019.


DASHBOARD CAMERAS & DATA STORAGE

At our 12/21 meeting, Council unanimously approved a purchase order for the police department: AXON dashboard cameras and cloud storage of the data collected through those cameras. At that meeting, a public commenter urged us to contemplate how we make these purchases. He pointed to the examples of Oakland and Portland, where tech purchases that raise potential privacy concerns are subject to procedural review. He proposed that our Independent Community Police Oversight Commission (ICPOC) review purchases like this one for the police department. These are ideas worth exploring.


In Portland, Oregon, every City download or purchase of software is subject to three phases of review: technology, business, and legal. If item DC-1 was proposed in Portland, perhaps the most relevant phase of review would be for “Technology-related risks.” The Portland government website explains that this review considers


Information security-related risks:

  • Are we including sensitive information? Are we storing data in places we can’t control?

  • Bureaus can only accept technology risk for their bureau

Network security-related risks:

  • Use of poorly designed software can make networks vulnerable to attack

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bts/article/767590


In Oakland, California, a Privacy Advisory Commission “provides advice to the City of Oakland on best practices to protect Oaklanders' privacy rights in connection with the City's purchase and use of surveillance equipment and other technology that collects or stores our data.” Explanation of Oakland’s commission can be found here:

https://www.oaklandca.gov/boards-commissions/privacy-advisory-board


Dashboard cameras collect images of faces, which raises concerns about “personally identifying information” (PII) due to the existence of facial recognition software. Much has been written about the dangers of facial recognition software; specifically, this software has very high error rates in identifying people of color. It’s important that we are very clear and intentional about how we collect and control the use of any data that includes images of people’s faces.


Regarding DC-1 on this week’s agenda: the article below explains a bit about the AXON company, whose cameras we would be buying:

https://www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2019/feb/12/algorithms-ai-task-force/


CM Song asked for reconsideration of this issue that was previously approved on our Consent Agenda. I reached out to CM Song earlier this week to ask about her ideas/reasoning in bringing it back. I haven't heard from her yet, but I look forward to discussion at the table. I expect that by bringing this agenda item back we can talk about review policies for tech purchases moving forward or perhaps send the issue back to ICPOC for discussion. This topic might also be of interest to our Human Rights Commission (HRC).


REGIONAL SOLID WASTE AUTHORITY

Agenda item DC-2 is a resolution directing our City Administrator to effect Ann Arbor’s membership in the Washtenaw Regional Resource Management Authority (WRRMA). This topic was first discussed in March 2019, when Council considered approval of the WRRMA’s Articles of Incorporation. At that time, Council chose not to move forward with membership. The issue was “tabled” for several reasons.


First, significant review and analysis of our existing solid waste services was still underway at that time. An advisory committee of local advocates and stakeholders had been working with a consultant for months, assessing the city’s solid waste management; in March 2019, this committee had not yet completed or submitted its report of recommendations. Without this report - what eventually became the Solid Waste Resource Management Plan (SWRMP) - it seemed premature to join the WRRMA.


Secondly (and perhaps more importantly), when it was last discussed in March 2019, both environmental and labor interests raised issues about the governing structure of the WRRMA as outlined in the Article of Incorporation. They worried about how Ann Arbor would assert our local values and priorities in an organization where each municipality had exactly one vote (regardless of the municipality’s size or scale of waste collection). At the time, advocates reached out to me with a variety of concerns re: how Ann Arbor could be outnumbered (and out-voted) in this regional authority. They described specific policies that might be appealing to other members of the WRRMA, but would not be appropriate in Ann Arbor because such policies would compromise our local commitment to both recycling and fair labor practices.


I was surprised that in Legistar, agenda item DC-2 does not include a file for the WRRMA Articles of Incorporation. I’ve asked that this be attached. My understanding is that the voting policies - considered problematic by environmental and labor advocates - have not been altered since March 2019. This week’s resolution acknowledges the shortcomings of the current governing structure of WRRMA and optimism that it might change. Apparently the topic of proportional voting was discussed at WRRMA in July 2020 and they resolved to "consider amending" terms for the approval of contracts.


The Solid Waste Resource Management Plan (SWRMP) approved by Council (October 2020) includes direction for City staff to attend WRRMA meetings and “seek opportunities to partner with WRRMA to increase access to collection options for Ann Arbor residents.” However, the decision to officially join WRRMA is fairly significant. I’m sorry that this decision lands on our agenda right after a holiday when folks are less likely to notice it. During this holiday week, I reached out to labor advocates to get perspectives— they were surprised to learn that Council was voting on it and they wanted more information.


I look forward to discussion at our meeting about how and why it’s appropriate for us to join WRRMA now, before clarifying the issue of representation/voting. I am especially curious to learn more details about WRRMA's commitments in July 2020.




Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!

Elizabeth Nelson ENelson@A2gov.org


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