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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 (July 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 agenda is very short, with only four items on the regular agenda. The Consent Agenda includes street closures for special events (CA-1 through CA-5), a plan to remove parking on Barton Drive (CA-11), as well as investment in traffic signals and crosswalks (CA-10).


Many residents reached out to me this week when they received a political mailer that they recognized as a gross distortion of my record. For more information about that, see my "Additional Thoughts" section below. You can also view it at this link on my website:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/the-difference-is-clear


City News: Police Chief

This week we learned that our current Police Chief Michael Cox has accepted the job of Police Commissioner for the Boston Police Department. Three years ago, I participated in the hiring process for Chief Cox and our City has been lucky to have his expertise leading our department. I am sorry to see him leave but I am happy to see his considerable skills and expertise recognized in a place where he will be appreciated.


Chief Cox was kind enough to participate in one of my COVID interviews in 2020. You can watch that interview here:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/a2-covid-19-police-chief-cox


Absentee Ballots

As a reminder, the primary on Tuesday August 2nd, with polls open from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM.


Please note that the last day to register to vote by mail for the August primary is Monday, July 18th​. After this date, voters can register in-person (and receive an absentee ballot) at the City Clerk's Office with proof of residency.


The City Clerk's office (located on the 2nd floor of City Hall at 301 E. Huron St) is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Additionally, the office will be open on Saturday, July 30th from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM.


This is the Ann Arbor City Clerk's webpage for elections:

https://www.a2gov.org/departments/city-clerk/Elections/Pages/Elections.aspx


For more information, this is the State of Michigan's "Voter Information Center", with links to check voter registration, apply for an absentee ballot, check for polling place, and more:

https://mvic.sos.state.mi.us


Absentee Ballot Drop Boxes

As with previous elections, the City has six ballot drop boxes for absentee ballots, which will remain open until 8:00 PM on the night of the Primary election.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/absentee-ballot-drop-boxes-for-august-primary


Precinct Renumbering and Polling Place Changes

Registered voters in Ann Arbor should have received updated Voter ID cards in the mail over the past week. These cards reflect new Ward boundaries approved last year by Council, as well as updated precinct numbers. Additionally, due to ongoing renovation and construction work by Ann Arbor Public Schools, eight polling places for the August primary will be relocated. I include a map of the new precinct numbers - and a list of the poll location changes - in this post.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/new-precinct-numbers-and-polling-place-updates-for-august-2022-primary

 

SUPPORT MY RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN

I am running for re-election to Council in 2022 and would really appreciate your generous support! I need your help to promote transparency, accountability, and serious representation for Ward 4. Our local democracy matters!


Volunteer

Endorse, Host a Party, Walk Doors, Phone Calls

https://www.a2elnel.com/volunteer


Yard Sign

No donation necessary - let me know if you want a yard sign!

https://www.a2elnel.com/yardsign


Donate

Any amount helps and shows your support!

https://www.a2elnel.com/donate


Coffee Hours

Sunday July 17th 3:00pm

I hold coffee hours Sunday afternoons before City Council meetings. This week my coffee hours are at Roos Roast at 1155 Rosewood, meeting outdoors on the lawn.


If you can, please bring a chair - RoosRoast has very limited outdoor seating for customers and they prefer that our meeting not occupy it.


City Council Regular Meeting

Monday July 18th 7:00pm

Council Meetings are in person at City Council chambers. Public commentary is available either in person or via phone/Zoom - see the Legistar link for details.

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=914276&GUID=16115387-C2FF-426B-B745-16D83911AB1C

 

Ward 4 People & Places You Should Know

If you are involved in local advocacy around social services, affordable housing, or food policy, you may already know Jim Mogensen. Jim is a retired occupational safety and health engineer and has been an active citizen since he moved to Ann Arbor 30 years ago. He has lived in Ward 4 for seven years.


I first met Jim shortly after I was elected to City Council, when he was among a group of advocates urging the University of Michigan to reject a Wendy’s franchise in the newly renovated Michigan Union. Jim helped educate me about the poor treatment of farm workers and I brought a resolution about it to City Council.


Jim is on the Washtenaw County Food Policy Council Food Access and Nutritional Policy Action Team. He is also a member of the Interfaith community and served on the City committee that preceded the Housing and Human Services Advisory Board. He serves as the faith representative on the Washtenaw County Continuum of Care Board that oversees and coordinates federal housing funding at the County level. He helped Religious Action for Affordable Housing (RAAH) that has raised money to support nonprofits providing housing to low-income residents.



Twenty years ago, a former staff person at the AAATA (Ann Arbor Area Transit Authority) implied that citizens didn’t attend Board meetings and Jim has been attending ever since. Prior to the pandemic, he had an inbox at the DDA (Downtown Development Authority) because it was easier to include him that way than to respond to endless FOIA requests.


Jim has a reputation as a frequent speaker at public meetings but actually spends most of his time listening and reading public documents to be sure that his comments are relevant and useful. In 2009, the Ann Arbor Chronicle wrote about a particularly memorable public comment from Jim, when he illustrated funding for human services with a red ribbon:

https://annarborchronicle.com/2009/04/22/ann-arbor-allocates-human-services-funding/index.html


A few quips from Jim:

Ann Arbor has a public process that can make you feel like processed cheese! Ann Arbor has a reputation of continuously revisiting the same darn issues. Sometimes it seems that all opinions that could be expressed has been said and sometimes it seems that I have said it! All controversial issues in Ann Arbor have no more than three degrees of separation from the word park. For example, the train station is both a parking structure and on a parkland!

Jim Mogensen is a local activist who has - for years - closely followed the work of our local government. I appreciate his long-term perspective on issues related to housing, social services, and transit. He is someone you should know!



To see previous "Ward 4 People & Places You Should Know", visit:

https://www.a2elnel.com/blog/categories/people-places

 

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.

City Council Voting Chart for July 5, 2022

The voting chart I made for our most recent Council meeting.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/city-council-voting-chart-for-july-5-2022


A2Council.com Update for July 5, 2022

My summary of agenda items of interest from our most recent Council meeting, along with articles I've written, articles published on MLive, links to Legistar, and CTN's YouTube video.

https://www.a2elnel.com/a2council-date/20220705


Lane Closure on E Eisenhower (July 18-30, 2022)

There will be a lane shift on East Eisenhower Parkway between South Industrial Highway and Hayes Court from Monday July 18th through Saturday July 30, 2022

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/lane-closure-on-e-eisenhower-july-18-30-2022


Churchill Downs Park Stormwater Basin Construction Site Tour (July 20, 2022)

Harry Sheehan, Chief Deputy of Washtenaw County Water Resources, will be conducting a tour of the Churchill Downs Park stormwater basin construction site.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/churchill-downs-park-stormwater-basin-construction-site-tour-july-20-2022


Feet on the Street Recycle Cart Tagging Program (July & Aug 2022)

This is a City program to improve the quality of recycling in single-stream curbside recycling carts​ by providing residents personalized and real-time curbside recycling education and feedback.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/feet-on-the-street-recycle-cart-tagging-program-july-aug-2022


Community Conversations with the Ann Arbor City Administrator (July & Aug 2022)

City Administrator Milton Dohoney Jr will be hosting community meetings on July 26 (online), Aug 8 (in person at City Hall), Aug 9 (online). Preregistration for the online meetings is required.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/community-conversations-with-the-ann-arbor-city-administrator-july-aug-2022

 

Council Meeting Agenda 7/18/22

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) is on the A2Gov Legistar website:

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=914276&GUID=16115387-C2FF-426B-B745-16D83911AB1C


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 (22-1225) Agenda Response Memo and eComments - July 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 (22-1118) Appointment - Confirmations

This mayoral nomination was being presented at the last meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting.

  • Peter Houk - Transportation Commission

MC-2 (22-1181) Nominations and Appointments for July 18, 2022

This mayoral nomination is being presented at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting.

  • Kristina Glusac - Zoning Board of Appeals

MC-3 (22-1196) Resolution to Appoint Non-Registered Elector Nicholas Roumel to the Renters Commission (One-step Appointment - 8 Votes Required)

This mayoral nomination is being presented at this meeting, and will be voted on at this meeting as a "one step" appointment that requires 8 votes.

  • Nicholas Roumel - Renters 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 (22-1173) Resolution to Approve Street Closing for the NTI Block Party - Wednesday, August 3, 2022 from Noon to 1:00 AM on Thursday, August 4, 2022


CA-2 (22-1174) Resolution to Approve Street Closing for the NYPD 25th Anniversary Block Party on Friday, August 12 at 12:00 Noon until Saturday, August 13 at 1:00 AM


CA-3 (22-1172) Resolution to Approve Street Closings for the UA Block Party and Plumbers & Pipefitters 5K - Monday, August 15, 2022


CA-4 (22-1171) Resolution to Approve Changes to Traffic Patterns and Parking on Certain City Streets for the 2022 University of Michigan Student Move-In Program from August 24 - August 28, 2022


CA-5 (22-1169) Resolution to Approve Street Closure of Washington Street between Fletcher and Thayer Streets for the University of Michigan Go Blue Mix on Saturday, September 3, 2022 from 4:00 PM until 2:00 AM on Sunday, September 4, 2022


CA-7 (22-0999) Resolution to Approve an Agreement with the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office for Weapons Screening Services in the Ann Arbor Justice Center (NTE $205,000.00)


CA-8 (22-1068) Resolution to Approve Amendment No. 2 to the Professional Services Agreement with Fishbeck, for Water Treatment Professional Engineering Services ($400,000.00 increase, total contract $1,250,000.00)


CA-9 (22-1116) Resolution to Authorize a Purchase Order to Carrier & Gable, Inc. for Traffic Control Materials and Supplies ($640,500.00)


CA-10 (22-1122) Resolution to Authorize a Sole Source Purchase Order to Yunex LLC for Siemens Traffic Control Products in the Amount of $690,000.00


CA-11 (22-1012) Resolution to Prohibit On-Street Parking on Both Sides of Barton Drive from Northside Avenue to Pontiac Trail


CA-12 (22-1170) Resolution to Purchase a Water Main Easement at 2311 E. Stadium ($119,896.00) (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.

There are no public hearings scheduled for this meeting.

 

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 (22-1145) An Ordinance to Amend Section 5.16.3.G, 5.20.10 and 5.30.1 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Marijuana Licenses, Trees in the Right-of-Way, Landscape Modifications) (ORD-22-xx)

Three amendments to the Uniform Development Code (UDC) are proposed:

1) A limitation on the number of State marijuana licenses per lot would be removed, so that several licenses could be ‘stacked’ on the same parcel. Other restrictions - zoning district permitted use regulations, physical separation distances, and the maximum cap for provisioning center/retailers and designated consumption facilities - would remain in effect.

2) New site plans include requirements and procedures for installing street trees in the right-of-way. An amendment related to linear frontage calculation will prevent overcrowding of trees. Another amendment will eliminate escrow deposit and refund related to these tree plantings.

3) For site plans, modification to landscape requirements is permitted under certain conditions. This amendment adds an eligibility requirement and re-organizes modification conditions, standards of approval, and approval procedures.


C-2 (22-1147) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 5.16.1.A, 5.16.2.A, 5.16.2.B, 5.16.3.J, 5.16.3.P, 5.16.4.B, 5.16.6.C, 5.16.6.G, and to repeal and replace Section 5.19 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of Code of the City of Ann Arbor - (Amend Parking Standards)

Amendments to the UDC will change parking requirements. One amendment would eliminate parking requirements for residential dwellings, adult day care centers, child care centers, and outdoor residential recreation facilities. Current standards require off-street parking spaces for residential units located more than 300 feet from a bus stop and in areas with limited street parking. These requirements would be eliminated. Also eliminated: any requirements for a “Parking Plan” of proposed off-street parking and an analysis of public parking and transit facilities in the vicinity. The process for deferment of these requirements are rendered moot and also removed. A second amendment will change current standards for Electric Vehicle (EV) ready and installed parking requirements. Current requirements would only apply to newly constructed parking.

 

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 (22-1149) Resolution Directing the City Administrator to Expand Compliance Evaluations and to Continue to Provide Annual Reports Regarding Contractor Compliance with Prevailing Wage Requirements

The City Administrator would be directed to develop a policy in the next 60 days for periodic, on-site spot checks of contractor compliance with prevailing wage requirements. He will provide an annual report on this topic for the next five years, including the results of these on-site spot-checks.


DC-2 (22-1217) Resolution to Organize a Joint Meeting of Interested Individuals from the Environmental Commission, Transportation Commission, Energy Commission, A2ZERO Ambassadors, and other Community Stakeholders to Identify Opportunities for Greater Coordination around Transportation, Pedestrian Safety, and Sustainability Initiatives Related to Sidewalk Expansion and Maintenance

This resolution will convene a joint meeting of representatives from the Environmental Commission, Transportation Commission, Energy Commission, A2ZERO Ambassadors, plus other community stakeholders in order to identify opportunities for greater coordination between the City’s transportation, safety, and sustainability initiatives as it relates to sidewalk expansion and maintenance.

 

Additional thoughts…

I also published this on my website:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/the-difference-is-clear



The Difference Is Clear

This week, residents of Ward 4 received a political mailer that illustrates a problem that motivated me to run for City Council in the first place. One of my opponents, Dharma Akmon, created a list of bullet points titled "The Difference is Clear" which summarized complicated issues into short phrases that grossly distort my record of service on Council. The mailer is full of over-simplifications, inaccurate statements presented as fact, and wildly misleading characterizations.


Political tactics like this mailer are based on one very big assumption: residents with limited access to facts will swallow whatever misinformation is marketed to them. The whole of our community should be offended that such practices have become the norm in our local politics.


FACT-CHECKING

Below is an opportunity to learn more about each of the issues listed in that mailer.


SANCTION OF COUNCIL MEMBER HAYNER

I was appalled by and denounced Council member Hayner’s use of homophobic and racially offensive words outside of Council. I have said so, repeatedly and publicly. In April 2021, I voted in favor of the resolution removing Hayner from all committee assignments for seven months. I did not support a subsequent resolution asking him to resign the seat to which Ward 1 voters had elected him because a democratic process of recall was underway. (That effort eventually failed.) I support a democratic process to choose or remove elected leaders. I wrote about that here:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/illiberal-democracy


CITY ADMINISTRATOR

I voted to end the employment of City Administrator Howard Lazarus, who was already interviewing for other jobs. There continues to be some confusion around the concept of “without cause” and why the City would opt to end a contract this way, triggering payment of severance. According the City Administrator’s employment contract, any separation “with cause” required very specific and serious misconduct (e.g. fraud, felony, sexual misconduct), none of which had occurred. Dissatisfaction with his performance was a perfectly legitimate reason for Council to seek a replacement. I wrote about it at the time here:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/additional-thoughts-feb-29-2020-city-administrator-and-police-chief


Meeting the terms of this City Administrator’s contract was a relatively small expense ($275,000) compared to other recent Council decisions. For example, Council recently spent nearly double that amount when it chose a more expensive contractor for just one construction project.


STANDING UP FOR A WHISTLEBLOWER

I stood up for a whistleblower at City Hall who asked for specific workplace protections. When he identified conduct that he felt was discriminatory, and a majority of Council refused to grant him those protections, I and another Council member agreed to meet with him. We revealed no confidential information that was discussed in a closed session. We did discuss something he already knew: that the then-City Attorney was not sympathetic to his concerns. It is my belief that this investigation report was used as a political weapon. I wrote about it at the time here:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/investigation-reports-the-new-political-weapon


TRANSIT CORRIDOR DEVELOPMENT

In April 2020, one month into the lock-down of the pandemic, Council was asked to move forward with discussion of rezoning for denser development on transit corridors. At a time when public meetings and public engagement were most awkward and difficult, I did not believe it was appropriate to pursue an idea with such lasting implications. This resolution was tabled until the state emergency stay-at-home orders were lifted. I have consistently demanded careful consideration of policies that require more meaningful engagement of stakeholders. I wrote about it at the time here:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/additional-thoughts-apr-5-2020-transit-oriented-development


When the same question came before City Council in November 2020, I voted in favor of it. In July 2021, I voted in support of the recommendation from the Planning Commission to establish the new TC1 Transit Corridor district zoning, but I also voted to refer it back to Planning in order to add affordability and sustainability requirements. Mayor Taylor and his majority on Council rejected consideration of any affordability or sustainability requirements.


In April 2022, I voted in support of establishing a TC1 zoning district for 68 parcels at the intersection of State and Eisenhower, which is in Ward 4:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/selective-oversight-tc-1-zoning-and-city-contracts


LOCKWOOD

In March 2019, I opposed a rezoning to permit denser housing on top of monitoring wells for the 1,4-dioxane Gelman plume pollution. The Lockwood senior housing development was proposed at a location where some of the highest levels of pollution have been detected, on a slope above wetlands around First Sister Lake. I wrote about it at the time here:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/additional-thoughts-feb-17-2019-lockwood-and-the-gelman-plume


In February 2021, I voted in favor of a larger version of the Lockwood development, at a location in the cIty that is not complicated by the presence of pollution. Last month, I attended the groundbreaking of Lockwood:

https://rejournals.com/lockwood-companies-celebrates-ground-breaking-of-seniors-community-in-ann-arbor


SAFE ROUTES TO SCHOOL

In May 2019, I voted against a sidewalk special assessment district near Northside STEAM. I consulted with residents who complained that a plan for sidewalks had significant problems, failed to include the needs and perspectives of the local neighborhood, and did not effectively meet the safety needs of school children. I opposed a plan that was extremely costly (both financially and environmentally), but more importantly did not address safety concerns. I have consistently supported investment in our pedestrian infrastructure while also demanding that such investments actually serve their avowed objectives and that they happen with the engagement and support of the local community it is meant to serve. I wrote about it at the time here:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/working-together-building-bridges-to-move-forward



It is easy for me to share the facts, context, and primary sources for every issue mischaracterized on that mailer because all of that information already exists on my website. When each of these issues came before Council, I did the work of collecting all relevant facts, context, and links to primary sources so that residents could understand them thoroughly and provide feedback to me. An informed electorate helps me to be a better representative.


THE WHOLE STORY

Some facts are curiously missing from that most recent negative mailer:


Dharma Akmon is endorsed by and has been campaigning together with Mayor Taylor. The same treasurer oversees the campaign finances of Mayor Taylor, Dharma Akmon, Jenn Cornell, CM Jen Eyer, and CM Linh Song.


I have talked to multiple residents who have met my opponent and directly asked her about her association with Mayor Taylor. They tell me that she either denies it, avoids answering the question, or claims that I am actually the candidate most closely allied with the Mayor. Facts matter. When I am asked about my association with Mayor Taylor, I tell the truth: I vote with him a lot of the time, but I am also very disappointed in his leadership and he is endorsing my opponent.


Dharma Akmon is endorsed and supported by Council Member Jen Eyer and has received significant financial support from a shared set of donors, with most of her money (so far) coming from outside of Ward 4. Of the $15,000 in donations included on Dharma Akmon’s most recent campaign finance report (raised in the last seven weeks of 2021), around $10,000 came from the same donors who gave to CM Jen Eyer in 2020.


I believe that Ward 4 residents value an independent voice on City Council: someone who is committed to hearing residents and representing local concerns, not voting in lock-step with a faction of City Council.


MY VALUES

I want our community to have access to more information, not less. I don’t choose to distort or manipulate the public’s understanding of issues by oversimplifying or mischaracterizing complex topics — you should be able to judge your elected leaders based on facts, not distortions. I am proud of my voting record and of the work I have done in expanding our community’s access to information. Our democracy is stronger when your elected leaders are committed to representing you honestly and with integrity. The difference is clear.



Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!

Elizabeth Nelson


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