This week at City Council, we have a mid-size consent agenda, four public hearings (three on special assessment districts, one on an ordinance amendment), and some resolutions and amendments that concern City Council: how we are elected and how we are compensated. We are also voting on re-zoning for a development on Summit Street ("The Garnet").
Before I jump into my summary of items on the agenda, I’d like to invite you to my coffee hours tomorrow (Sunday) from 3-4:30 p.m. at RoosRoast on Rosewood. I hope this is a convenient opportunity for us to meet in person and hear perspectives.
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Some of us on City Council have decided to resume a tradition of “Council Caucus” on Sunday nights. I am looking forward to this opportunity for additional open, public conversation around the issues that matter to you!
Council Caucus Sunday July 14 (7:00-9:00pm) City Hall 2nd Floor 301 E Huron St
Public comment general time. (Three minutes, no need to signup in advance and speakers will be assigned in the order of arrival.)
Discussion, primarily topics on the next day's Council agenda.
One or more council members will be present for each caucus.Children are welcome. (Books and crayons provided)
If there is public interest, then the caucus sessions will continue every Sunday before regular Council meetings.
For more information about Council Caucus, see the city website at: https://www.a2gov.org/departments/city-council/Pages/CityCouncilMeetings.aspx
Boards and Commissions Applications
Membership on Ann Arbor Boards and Commissions is constantly changing as terms end and appointees step down. We need you! You can find openings at the following link (or contact me directly) https://a2gov.granicus.com/boards/w/fe6c5e22e6f4a331/vacancies
Road Construction Updates
It's the season for road construction, and I post regular updates on my website about projects that affect Ward 4 residents. My posts include links to the City's website, so that you can find more information and contact info.
For information about these and other projects, the City has a page of road and lane closures, and a page of scheduled construction projects: https://www.a2gov.org/departments/engineering/traffic/Pages/Road-and-Lane-Closure.aspx
Stone School Road lane closures July 8th to Aug 9th (I-94 to E Eisenhower) Stone School Road is closed southbound between I-94 and East Eisenhower Parkway. https://www.a2elnel.com/post/stone-school-road-lane-closures-july-8th-to-aug-9th
Lane Closures on Eisenhower July 8th to 16th (ITC State-Pioneer Transmission Line Project) There are lane closures along Eisenhower from the ITC State-Pioneer Transmission Line project. https://www.a2elnel.com/post/lane-closures-on-eisenhower-july-8th-to-16th-itc-state-pioneer-transmission-line-project
Hoover/Greene/Hill Project Update July 8th An update on the construction project on Hoover/Green/Hill, including water main shutdowns in the past few days. https://www.a2elnel.com/post/hoover-greene-hill-project-update-july-8th-includes-water-main-shutdowns-july-11-12
Maywood Ave Construction Update July 12th An update on the construction project on Maywood Avenue. https://www.a2elnel.com/post/maywood-ave-construction-update-july-12th
These detours are still in place:
Hoover Ave detour June 12th to July 26th An detour is in place on Hoover Avenue from Greene Street to State Street. https://www.a2elnel.com/post/hoover-ave-traffic-control-plan-june-12th-to-july-26th
South State Street detour June 12th to Aug 7th An detour is in place on South State Street between Stimson Street and Oakbrook Drive. https://www.a2elnel.com/post/south-state-street-detour-june-12th-to-aug-7th
Additional 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 July 1, 2019 https://www.a2elnel.com/post/city-council-voting-chart-for-july-1-2019
Diversity of Ideas https://www.a2elnel.com/post/diversity-of-ideas
City to Offer Art Fair Wristbands for Kids + Event Security & Safety Notes https://www.a2elnel.com/post/city-to-offer-art-fair-wristbands-for-kids-event-security-safety-notes
A reminder about a few city resources:
A2 Fix It This is an online system for alerting the city to problems in your neighborhood (e.g. potholes, graffiti, garbage pickup). This is the city’s preferred method for hearing your complaint so they can direct appropriate staff to address it. I’m happy to hear from you, too, but city staff tell me that the online A2FixIt system is actually the quickest and fastest way to get a response to the problem. Information about A2FixIt (and explanation of more urgent issues and appropriate numbers to call) is here: https://www.a2gov.org/services/pages/report-a-problem.aspx
City News and Announcements This is a helpful link to updates on events and opportunities in Ann Arbor through City Hall: https://www.a2gov.org/news/pages/default.aspx
City Department Updates If you have specific interests related to the city’s work, e.g. construction projects, deer management, recycling, you can subscribe to receive emailed updates on various topics found here: https://www.a2gov.org/services/Pages/E-mailAlertSubscription.aspx
HIGHLIGHTS Council Meeting Agenda 7/15/19
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=656009&GUID=B2F49BD8-B056-43BD-B461-2229FB2E4F65&Options=info&Search=
Ann Arbor City Council Monday July 15 (7:00pm) City Hall 2nd Floor 301 E Huron St
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 https://a2ctn.viebit.com/
Communications from the Mayor
MC-1 (19-1163) Appointments - Confirmations This Mayoral appointment was introduced at the 7/1/19 Council meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting.
Bruce Carson, Building Board of Appeals
Below is the list of items included on tomorrow’s 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 (19-1314) Resolution to Approve Changes to Traffic Patterns and Parking on Certain City Streets for the 2019 University of Michigan Student Move-In Program from August 28 - August 30, 2019
CA-2 (19-1278) Resolution to Approve Street Closure of Washington Street between Fletcher and Thayer Streets for the University of Michigan Go Blue Mix on Saturday, August 31, 2019 from 11:00 AM until 9:00 PM
CA-3 (19-1294) Resolution Recognizing Ozone House as a Civic Nonprofit Organization Operating in Ann Arbor for the Purpose of Obtaining a Charitable Gaming License
CA-4 (19-1245) Resolution to Approve Fairview Cemetery Rules and Regulations
CA-5 (19-1262) Resolution to Appoint Gerard Markey as the Ann Arbor City Assessor
CA-6 (19-1191) Resolution to Approve a Contract with the Michigan Department of Transportation for the Allen Creek Railroad Berm Opening Project ($5,160,500.00)
CA-7 (19-1201) Resolution to Approve an Amendment to the Professional Services Agreement with Bergmann Associates for Construction Support Services for the Allen Creek Railroad Berm Opening Project ($34,920.00)
CA-8 (19-1204) Resolution No. 1 - Prepare Plans and Specifications for the Proposed Barton Drive Resurfacing Project’s Sidewalk Gap Portion- Special Assessment (District #55), and Appropriate $25,000.00 from the General Fund Balance for the Design of the Project (8 Votes Required)
CA-9 (19-1142) Resolution to Authorize a Contract with Margolis Companies, Inc. for the Purchase, Delivery and Planting of Trees along City Street Rights-of-Way ($321,550.00; Bid No. ITB-4578)
CA-10 (19-1150) Resolution to Approve Purchase of Certified Laboratory PFAS Testing for Water Treatment Service Unit from SGS North America Inc., RFP #19-14 (estimated $32,410.00/year)
CA-11 (19-1190) Resolution to Approve an Agreement with West Shore Services, Inc. for Repairs, Upgrades, and Maintenance to the Outdoor Emergency Siren System ($72,417)
CA-12 (19-1095) Resolution to Authorize the Purchase of a 2020 Vactor Combination Sewer and Catch Basin Cleaner from Jack Doheny Companies (Sourcewell Bid - $571,090.00)
CA-13 (19-1199) Resolution to Approve a Lease with Enterprise Leasing Company of Detroit LLC for Facilities at the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport
CA-14 (19-1202) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of Heavy Equipment/Truck Tires and Tire Repair Services from Tredroc Tire Services LLC (MiDeal; Not To Exceed $150,000.00 Annually)
CA-15 (19-1267) Resolution to Approve a Two Year Contract with Harper Electric Inc., for On-Call Electrical Services (Not to Exceed $75,000.00 Annually) RFP #19-17
CA-16 (19-1308) Resolution to Accept an Easement for Public Right-of-Way at 900 South Seventh Street from West Side United Methodist Church (8 Votes Required)
CA-17 (19-1307) Resolution to Accept a Water Main Easement at 900 South Seventh Street from West Side United Methodist Church (8 Votes Required)
CA-18 (19-1312) Resolution to Accept a Sidewalk Easement at 151 East Hoover Avenue from Hoover Greene Owner, LLC (8 Votes Required)
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 (19-1139) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 1:311, 1:316, 1:317, 1:319, and 1:324 in Chapter 14 (Purchasing, Contracting and Selling Procedure) of Title I of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Ordinance No. ORD-19-23) Service area administrators (rather than the Chief Financial Officer) would be empowered to approve contracts as to substance and certify the availability of budget. For purchases of $25,000 or less, the City Administrator would determine situations where bidding and solicitation of contracts is not practical or of no advantage. Currently, “no bid” contracts require authorization by Council; this amendment removes that requirement for purchases under $25,000. City Council will receive a monthly report from the City Administrator of all such purchases.
PH-2 (19-1016) Resolution No. 4 Confirming the Single Lot Special Assessment - 1425 Pontiac Street Project Special Assessment Roll (8 Votes Required) A single lot at 1425 Pontiac Street will be approved for a Sidewalk Special Assessment Roll, for the total sum of $14,644.80. The City’s Street, Bridge and Sidewalk Millage will cover half of the cost ($7,322.40) and the property owner will be assessed for $7,322.40. Eight votes are required for approval because the property owner filed a written objection with the City Clerk.
PH-3 (19-1156) Resolution No. 4 - Scio Church Improvements Project, Curb and Gutter & Sidewalk Special Assessment District No. 52, File No. 19-0064 A Special Assessment District will be approved for the Scio Church Improvements Project (Curb and Gutter & Sidewalk along the south side of Scio Church between S. Main and S. Seventh). The total cost is estimated at $128,609.97. The City will cover $23,219.52 in the cost of improvements at several properties that are township islands; these costs are recoverable when those properties are eventually annexed into the City. An additional $1,343.87 will be assessed to city properties in this district.
PH-4 (19-1167) Resolution No. 4 Dhu Varren Sidewalk Improvements Project, Special Assessment District No. 53, File No. 19-0881A Special Assessment District will be approved for the Dhu Varren Sidewalk Improvements Project, which includes the construction of sidewalks on both sides of Dhu Varren Road, from Omlesaad Drive to Nixon Farm developments. Dhu Varren would re-align to accommodate the new sidewalks and preserve existing bike lanes, boulder retaining walls, and landscaping. The total estimated project cost is $852,409.60. A large number of property owners will be specially assessed for a total of $83,159.71 (most individual assessments are between $123.20 and $946.55). An additional $578,420.80 of federal grant money and $190,829.09 of local millage funds will cover the rest of the cost.
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 (19-1139) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 1:311, 1:316, 1:317, 1:319, and 1:324 in Chapter 14 (Purchasing, Contracting and Selling Procedure) of Title I of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Ordinance No. ORD-19-23) This is the same as PH-1 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.
C-1 (19-1186) An Ordinance to Amend the Zoning Map, Being a Part of Section 5:10.2 of Chapter 55 of Title V of the Code of Ann Arbor, Rezoning of 0.2 Acre from C1B (Community Convenience Center District) to C1A (Campus Business District) WITH CONDITIONS, The Garnet Rezoning, 325 East Summit Street (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 8 Yeas and 0 Nays) A 0.2 acre property at 325 East Summit Street would be re-zoned from C1B (Community Convenience Center District) to C1A (Campus Business District) with conditions. The re-zoning will allow construction of a four-story, ten unit condominium building with eleven parking spaces. Conditional re-zoning will limit building height to four stories (65 feet) and limit the maximum floor area ratio to 199%.
C-2 (19-1209) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Zoning of 1.19 Acres from TWP (Township District) to R1A (Single-Family Dwelling District), 2705 Newport Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 8 Yeas and 0 Nays) (Ordinance No. ORD-) A recently annexed township island at 2705 Newport Road will be zoned R1A (Single-Family Dwelling district). The proposed zoning is consistent with the adjacent zoning, the surrounding land uses, and the City’s Master Plan.
C-3 (19-1087) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 5.15 (Table 5-15), 5.17.3, 5.17.5 (Table 5:17-5), and Section 5.37.2 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Permitted Use Table, Parkland Donations, Dimensional Standards Table, Front Lot Line) The Unified Development Code of Ann Arbor would be amended to correct mistakes in the three sections and clarify a fourth.
Correct Section 5.15 table 5-15 to indicate that medical marijuana processor use is permitted in M1A district
Correct Section 5.17.3A to state that lot area includes land donated or to be donated to the City for public park purposes which is acceptable to the City
Correct Section 5.17.5, Table 5:17-5 to show the requirement for a 50 foot setback in the R5 district and reference footnote
Amend the definition of front lot line in Section 5.37.2 to clarify that a “street” does not mean a highway or an alley.
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 (19-1273) Resolution to Approve an Addendum to Council Administrative Rules: Rule 3 - Reimbursement of Council Expenses The City Administrative rules would be amended to allow for up to $500 fiscal year allowance per Council Member for reimbursable expenses related to city business such as training, attendance at conferences, and purchase of materials in support of City business.
DC-2 (19-1304) Resolution to appoint Geoffrey Perkins to the Building Board of Appeals (7 Votes Required) This Mayoral appointment was introduced at the 7/1/19 Council meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting. Seven votes are required because the nominee is not a resident of the City of Ann Arbor.
Geoffrey Perkins, Building Board of Appeals
DC-3 (19-1349) Resolution to Override Mayor’s Veto of R-19-325 (8 Votes Required) At our last meeting, City Council approved a resolution that would put a charter amendment on the ballot for voter approval on 11/5/19, establishing non-partisan nomination and elections to the city offices for Mayor and members of Council. If approved by the voters, the amendment would remove party affiliation from the ballot and also ensure a contested election in November if more than one candidate files to run for the offices of Mayor or City Council. If there are two or fewer candidates, there would be no primary election in August and the candidates would appear on the ballot in November, without party affiliation. If more than two candidates petition to run for Mayor or City Council, all candidates would appear on a primary ballot in August, without party affiliation. The two primary candidates receiving the highest number of votes in August would then appear on the November ballot, again without party affiliation. The Mayor vetoed this resolution, so that the question would not be put on the ballot. This resolution is an effort to override the veto with eight votes. See my "Additional Thoughts" section below.
DC-4 (19-1383) Resolution to Reject the Determination of Salaries for the Mayor and City Council Members Approved by the Local Officers Compensation Commission on June 17, 2019 (8 Votes Required) As communicated in the last Council meeting, the appointed volunteer Local Officers Compensation Commission recommended an increase in salary beginning July 1, 2020 for both the Mayor and Council members. Currently the Mayor earns $45,210.19 annually, and Council Members earn $16,983.81. The commission recommended that the Council Members salaries should be set at 50% of the Mayor's salary. Along with a 2.45% cost of living adjustment, the Mayor's salary would be $46,317.84, and Council Members would earn $23,158.92. This represents a total increase of $63,158.75. By procedure, the commission recommendations are adopted without any vote of Council 30 days after being received by the Ann Arbor City Clerk. Because the recommendations were received June 17th, they would go into effect July 17th unless Council affirmatively rejects it by an 8 vote majority. CM Ackerman has proposed that Council reject this recommendation.
DS-1 (19-1016) Resolution No. 4 Confirming the Single Lot Special Assessment - 1425 Pontiac Street Project Special Assessment Roll (8 Votes Required) This is the same as PH-2 above.
DS-2 (19-1156) Resolution No. 4 - Scio Church Improvements Project, Curb and Gutter & Sidewalk Special Assessment District No. 52, File No. 19-0064 This is the same as PH-3 above.
DS-3 (19-1167) Resolution No. 4 Dhu Varren Sidewalk Improvements Project, Special Assessment District No. 53, File No. 19-0881 This is the same as PH-4 above.
One of the more important items on this week’s agenda is an effort to override the Mayor’s veto (DC-3). At our last meeting, Council passed a resolution to put the question of non-partisan elections on the ballot as an amendment to our City charter. According to the resolution, the voters of Ann Arbor would have the opportunity to consider this issue and vote on it at the next election in November. Since the Council vote (7-4) in support of this ballot question, I have seen and participated in a lot of conversation on the topic. I am hopeful that some of it is persuasive to at least one of my colleagues; we need eight votes to override a veto.
In our democracy, it is fairly difficult to pitch an argument for keeping a decision AWAY from voters, particularly one with the goal of engaging and including more voters going forward. At the state and national level we see the damage done when people in power make it more difficult to vote, district lines cause over/under representation, and more nefarious efforts prevent votes from counting. To the extent that our partisan system is an anomaly, it is even more difficult to defend the partisan system. We are one of only three communities in Michigan that use partisan identifiers for these local offices; the other two are Ypsilanti and Ionia. Yet, the Mayor has taken this position: the voters should not even be allowed to consider the question.
What I’m hearing from defenders of the Mayor’s veto is that this partisan system is essentially so holy and sacred, it should be kept beyond the reach of voters to decide. Some have suggested that a “D” conveys such crucial and valuable information - connected so deeply to values we hold dear - that we don’t dare lose it for fear of accidentally electing the wrong person, with the wrong values. It’s an interesting argument for this particular time and place. Of the eleven current council members (including our mayor), ten are Democrats and one is Independent, yet we find plenty of room to debate issues. We disagree on specific, practical strategies for achieving what we all want: a safe and functional community that equitably and sustainably serves a diversity of needs to the greatest extent and as efficiently as possible. However, when our local controversies flare hottest and more substantive ideas run short, debate can slip into petty fights over labels. Debates that should be about the facts on the ground and long-term vision, become vague histrionics about “values,” and what constitutes the “progressive” or “Democratic” position.
I’ve heard a few arguments in the last two weeks that I find bizarre. E.g. Someone suggested that the partisan elections and the “D” next to candidates’ names are what “protects” us from becoming a conservative and right-leaning town. I can share my small experience of one election and one political campaign: when I talked to residents last summer, I did meet a few people who asked me to identify myself in a partisan way, stating that this was the most important piece of information they needed to know in order to decide how to vote. The vast majority of voters asked me specific questions about what I thought re: issues in our town. They asked me to explain my thinking about these issues or volunteered their own strong feelings about them. They wanted to hear more about who I was and why I wanted to help lead our town. We need more of these conversations, not fewer. To the extent that some people do vote exclusively on party identifiers, I would argue: removing partisan labels would force more explanation of positions and perspectives at our local level. In my view, that is a GOOD thing.
I have said again and again: our local government is structured in a way that we can talk to each other and WITH each other. Community conversation and engagement should be the goal, trying to understand perspectives. Too often, folks resist conversation, preferring to talk AT each other. I recently read the opinion that these partisan labels are valuable at our local level because they quite literally put a stop to any conversation at all - it was viewed as a positive that someone with the wrong label will get the message to “stay out” and “quit.” That might be the worst possible argument in favor of maintaining small elections, where very few voters participate in electing our city leaders.
One of the more novel arguments I heard at the Council table in opposition to the resolution was this: The November 2019 election is not likely to be large enough to be a fair representation of voters (proposed alternative: put it on the ballot in November 2020 instead). An argument in support of engaging more voters would be compelling were it not for the fact that our current system engages so few; preserving the status quo simply allows for more candidates to be elected in one more election that excludes non-Democrats, students, and general-election-only voters.
When decided with finality in August, our Mayor and Council Members are elected by a small number of voters that excludes everyone who can’t (or doesn’t) vote in Democratic party primaries. The suggestion of “put it off until 2020” came from someone whose re-election would actually happen in 2020, i.e. the status quo would be preserved for the benefit of that person’s next election (and likely re-election) by the same small number of Democratic primary voters. I noted with surprise that a former council member - who voted in FAVOR of this very same ballot question in 2018 - has now reversed himself and supports the mayor’s veto. Interesting!
It is factually true that the 2020 November election will surely include more voters than the election this November 2019. However, someone pointed out to me: how carefully will this question be considered when it is on a ballot as long and large as the one in November 2020? Will the number of voters turning out to vote on a $1 billion AAPS school millage in November 2019 be more or less than the number of Democratic primary voters picking our local city council members in August 2020? Is the goal really about representation re: deciding this charter amendment, or do we simply fear a 2019 result that ultimately engages and includes MORE voters in the 2020 local elections?
I have been a Democrat since I was old enough to pay attention. I remember being a freshman in college, so excited about a rally with President Bill Clinton that I stayed up all night, then waited outside for hours in frigid temperatures. A summer internship in Washington D.C. was twice as thrilling for me because Democrats were in power and leading our federal government at the time. Whether or not party identification appears on a ballot, I would identify myself that way to the extent that it helps people understand who I am. I know that this is true for others as well.
Personally, I actually prefer campaigning in the summer— the weather is nicer and I’m not teaching in the summer. However, I value elections where more voters are engaged, more votes can actually count toward the result. People go on vacation in the summer, fewer people vote in the primaries, university students are not even in town yet. I support the resolution to put this idea on the ballot and if we can get it on the ballot, I would vote for it. I hope that we can gather eight votes to override the mayor’s veto.
Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!
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P.S. In writing this post, I’ve done a little reminiscing about my college experiences. For your amusement, below is a picture of me in the summer of 1995 with U.S. Representative from Missouri (and former House Majority Leader) Dick Gephardt.
Diversity of Ideas
I posted the following on my website after the last Council meeting https://www.a2elnel.com/post/diversity-of-ideas
This morning, a resident asked me to explain why I voted against a candidate to the Human Rights Commission.
All appointments happen entirely at the discretion of the Mayor and Council. Candidates for appointment are obviously not accountable to voters, the only accountability is the process of approval at the Council table. More crucially: some appointments originate with Council (i.e. a specific candidate can be submitted by a council member) and some appointments originate with the Mayor (i.e. a specific candidate can be submitted by only the Mayor).
There are very few circumstances when I would vote against appointing a qualified volunteer. Last night was one of them. I explained that my vote related to concerns about the treatment of Vivian Chang, former co-chair of the Human Rights Commission and an Asian American member of our queer community. I offer the explanation above to clarify the impasse we are in: I strongly believe that Vivian Chang's re-appointment should have been subject to a vote of council, but the Mayor has refused to submit her name for consideration. I have had serious conversations with the Mayor and others at City Hall about this issue, I am not the only CM concerned about it. I am upset by the political motivation for withholding her name, it goes against the very unique intents and purposes of the HRC. In my view, it is wrong to prevent a simple vote on Ms. Chang’s appointment. Last night, I voted against appointing someone else to the HRC even though that other person will certainly be a serious and thoughtful commissioner. My choice to vote “no” had nothing to do with that candidate’s qualification to serve and everything to do with concerns about who we are shutting out.
While it was not my primary motivation for voting "no," there is also debate around the idea of a dual appointment in this particular case (i.e. one person will now fill two seats: a seat on both HRC and the Independent Community Police Oversight Commission). A dual appointment reduces the opportunity for more people to participate; we include fewer voices and perspectives when one person takes a second seat that could have been filled by someone else. Drawing the circle of participation smaller is especially concerning to me, given what has happened to Vivian Chang. Of all our boards and commissions, I believe that the Human Rights Commission should be most committed to expanding the circle, including a greater diversity of voices. Last night, CM Griswold proposed that we consider formalizing a policy of dual appointment between HRC and ICPOC (as exists between other commissions). That is a debate worth having because it is not currently part of any written commission policy.
I have tried to articulate to people as much as possible my own definition of the word “qualified,” because these appointments do matter. While Council has complete discretion on this issue and do not have to explain our votes in the meeting (city attorneys have told us this repeatedly), I think all of us should be able to defend how and why we vote on specific appointments. In appointing people, I feel very strongly about choosing folks who are thoughtful, serious about hearing and understanding all perspectives, and committed to informed debate. I've heard other council members express ideas about policy direction re: these appointments, but I don't share that view.
I have voted in support of commissioners who disagree with me strongly and emphatically: commissioners who reached out to me with detailed explanation of why I am wrong on an issue and invited me to explain my perspective. These are the conversations we need to be having as a community, but most especially on Council and within our boards and commissions. Ann Arbor is stronger when we can engage in debate about policy and practice vigorously and thoughtfully. I support commissioners who share my commitment to serious dialogue: listening to understand each other (and persuade each other) rather than dividing up into "teams" against each other. I have voted against and will continue to vote against candidates for appointment who I know to be resistant to engaging others, eager to over-simplify issues for the purpose of mockery, or determined to promote "us versus them" dynamics in our community. Those attitudes are not consistent with an educated, progressive community. More importantly, that approach is the worst possible strategy for resolving issues of controversy and finding the best solutions for Ann Arbor.
Thank you to everyone who has ever contacted me to share your perspective (or ask for clarification of mine). I welcome these conversations and I look forward to many more!