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 (July 18, 2021)

Hello neighbors!

Welcome to everyone who is new to this newsletter! Before every Council meeting, I write up my own summary of each agenda item and try to pull details that I think are most relevant to understanding them. My hope is that these summaries can help residents keep track of what City Council is doing. For issues that matter to you, I encourage you to follow links (next to each agenda item) to the City's Legistar website, where you can find all the background information.


This week’s Council meeting has two public hearings including the early leasing ordinance, and three proposals for ballot questions that would amend the City charter. The ballot questions relate to City contracts and Council approval of City expenses; they would appear on a November 4, 2021 ballot. In agenda item DC-2, I am co-sponsoring efforts to add stormwater and flooding concerns to the A2Zero plan. For more about the early leasing ordinance (and potential amendments), see my "Additional Thoughts" section below.


This week’s consent agenda answers the question: how much will it cost to repair damage from last month’s water main break at Maple Road? Item CA-2 is an expenditure of $1,398,650 for asphalt, traffic signal repairs, and construction work. This expense will be funded from the Water Supply System Fund Balance. Note also that related lane closures will begin on Jackson Avenue starting Monday July 19th:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/maple-road-repair-update-jackson-avenue-lane-closures-begin-july-19-2021


These last two weeks, I have been biking all around the city, visiting newsletter subscribers. If you see me (and my purple flag), say hello!

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/


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Coffee Hours

Sunday July 18th 3:00pm

I hold coffee hours Sunday afternoons at 3pm before City Council meetings. This summer I am holding them outdoors at City Parks - bring a chair if you have one.


This week I will be holding coffee hours at Mushroom Park. I will be on the west side, nearest Saxon Street.

https://www.a2gov.org/departments/Parks-Recreation/parks-places/pages/mushroom.aspx


City Council Regular Meeting

Tuesday July 20th 7:00pm

Note that this week the Council meeting is on a Tuesday. My summary of the meeting agenda is posted below in this newsletter.

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=829775&GUID=F2E744E3-330B-4E99-9B18-FFE7070F7089


Note that Council is still meeting "virtually" using the Zoom application. Video feeds of Council meetings are broadcast on CTN and YouTube. Public comment is audio only using dial-in numbers. Please check the Legistar link for the latest information.

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 July 6, 2021

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/city-council-voting-chart-for-july-6-2021


Washtenaw County Residents Affected by June 25–26 2021 Flooding May Apply for FEMA Assistance

Washtenaw County homeowners and renters with uninsured or underinsured home damage from the severe storms and flooding of June 25–26, 2021, may register for disaster assistance from FEMA.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/washtenaw-county-residents-affected-by-june-25-26-2021-flooding-may-apply-for-fema-assistance


Maple Road Repair Update: Jackson Avenue Lane Closures begin July 19, 2021

Beginning Monday July 19th, water main repair work on Maple Road will move into the intersection of Maple Road and Jackson Avenue. Eastbound and westbound traffic on Jackson Avenue at Maple Road will be reduced to one lane in each direction. Note that North Maple Road from Jackson Avenue to the Veterans Memorial Park and Maple Village Plaza Driveways is still closed due to road repair work. All work is estimated to be completed by Aug 10th.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/maple-road-repair-update-jackson-avenue-lane-closures-begin-july-19-2021


Scio Church Road Construction Delayed to Sept 2021, Completed in Spring 2022

The Scio Church project originally scheduled to begin in July 2021 will now take place over two construction seasons due to delays and coordination with the hauling operations of the Churchill Downs Basin project. Construction is now expected to begin in Sept 2021.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/scio-church-road-construction-delayed-to-sept-2021-completed-in-spring-2022


Churchill Downs Park Stormwater Basin Update July 7 2021

An update on the Churchill Downs Park Stormwater Basin project from the Chief Deputy of Washtenaw County Water Resources.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/churchill-downs-park-stormwater-basin-update-july-7-2021

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 7/20/21

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=829775&GUID=F2E744E3-330B-4E99-9B18-FFE7070F7089

Ann Arbor City Council Tuesday July 20th (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-1 (21-1344) Agenda Response Memo and eComments - July 20, 2021

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 (21-1225) Appointments - Confirmations

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

  • Roger Hewitt - Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority Board

  • Susan Pollay - Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority Board

  • Edith Juno - Energy Commission

  • Nicholas Stevenson - Energy 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 (21-1051) Resolution to Approve a General Services Agreement with Kennedy Industries, Inc. for Pump Maintenance and Repair Services ($230,000.00) (RFP-21-15)


CA-2 (21-1263) Resolution to Ratify an Emergency Change Order with Cadillac Asphalt LLC for the Reconstruction of Jackson Ave and N. Maple Rd. Damaged by the June 22nd Water Main Break ($1,116,782.00) $7,391,782.00 and to Appropriate Funding in the Amount of $1,398,650.00 from the Water Supply System Fund Balance (8 Votes Required)


CA-3 (21-1224) Resolution to Approve Street Closings for Sonic Lunch - Thursdays, August 6, 12, 19, 26 and September 2, 2021 from 6:00 AM until 3:00 PM


CA-4 (21-1284) Resolution to Approve Changes to Traffic Patterns and Parking on Certain City Streets for the 2021 University of Michigan Student Move-In Program from August 25 - August 29, 2021


CA-5 (21-1160) Resolution to Approve Street Closings for the Ann Arbor Marathon Running Event - Sunday, October 24, 2021


CA-6 (21-1115) Resolution to Approve a Construction Contract with Brock & Associates, Inc. for Universal Access Improvements at Argo Livery (ITB 4660, $579,107.00)


CA-7 (21-1184) Resolution to Approve Purchase of Multi-Year Palo Alto Firewall Maintenance and Support from AmeriNet of Michigan, Inc. ($142,638.00) (GSA contract GS-35F-0511T)


CA-8 (21-1250) Resolution to Approve the June 24, 2021 Recommendation of the Board of Insurance Administration to Deny the Claim and Subsequent Appeal Filed by Claimant Satomi Kubo for a Automobile Damage Claim (CC032-21)

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 (21-1261) An Ordinance to Amend Section 8:530 of Chapter 105 (Housing: Lease Agreements and Entry to Show Residential Premises) of Title VIII (Building Regulations) of the Ann Arbor City Code (ORD-21-22)

A new ordinance will grant tenants a ‘right to renew’ a lease (longer than nine months) for up to 150 days before the end of the lease term. This protection for tenants extends our “early leasing ordinance” for the same timeline: landlords will not enter the premises for the purpose of showing the premises to prospective tenants until 150 days before the end of the lease term. NOTE: Based on legal advice, we expect significant amendment of this ordinance at the table Tuesday night. See my "Additional Thoughts" section below.


PH-2/DB-1 (21-1170) Resolution to Approve 300 West Huron Hotel Site Plan and Development Agreement, 300 West Huron (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 8 Yeas and 0 Nays)

This resolution would approve a site plan and development agreement for a a 43,414 square foot, five-story 95 room hotel at 300 W. Huron. There will be four parking spaces on-site and seven spaces located just off-site, plus one space designated for a car-sharing service. Valet service for parking at Ann-Ashley is anticipated. Petitioner will provide feedback to City Council about the possibility of adding solar panels to the roof.

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 (21-1261) is the same as PH-1 above.

New Business - Boards and Commissions

The following item had a public hearing above.


DB-1 (21-1170) 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.

C-1 (21-0640) An Ordinance to Amend Section 8:530 of Chapter 105 (Housing: Entry to Show Premises and Time for Rental Agreements) of Title VIII (Building Regulations) of the Ann Arbor City Code

Note: this is postponed from the 6/5/21 meeting. I expect this agenda item to be voted down and eliminated because it is displaced by agenda item B-1. See my "Additional Thoughts" section below.

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 (21-1228) Resolution to appoint Jonathan Overpeck to the Energy Commission (7 Votes Required)

This appointment from the Mayor was presented at the previous meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting. 7 votes are required because the appointee is not a registered elector of the City of Ann Arbor.

  • Jonathan Overpeck - Energy Commission

DC-2 (21-1324) Resolution to Amend the A2Zero Plan, Strategy 6, to Implement Sensors to Monitor and Strategies to Manage Heat, Air Quality, Waterways, and Flooding

City Council supports efforts to manage flooding, heat waves, and other climate-related impacts by updating the 2022 Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan and ensuring that vulnerabilities and risks are evaluated and mitigation strategies identified. The A2Zero plan adopted on June 1, 2020 will be amended: Strategy 6, Action 6, will be revised to read "Implement Sensors to Monitor and Strategies to Manage Heat, Air Quality, Waterways, and Flooding.” The administrator is encouraged to generate a list of shovel ready projects that would increase local resilience to climate-related hazards so that, if relevant, those projects could be considered for future federal and/or state funding.


DC-3 (21-1319) Resolution to Order Election and to Determine Ballot Question for Amendment to Section 14.3 of the City Charter Related to Best Value Purchasing (7 Votes Required)

A question would be put on the Nov 4, 2021 ballot for a City charter amendment. City contracts will no longer be awarded to the “lowest responsible bidder” and instead city contracts will be awarded according to which provide “the best value to the city.”


One year ago (July 20, 2020), City Council approved changes to our “responsible bidder” ordinance, adding significant disclosure requirements and qualifications for bidders on city contracts.

https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4582117&GUID=5E426F4F-78F5-4621-811E-42D0F7DE794E


That ordinance anticipated that contracts would continue to be awarded to the lowest bid, but staff was directed to identify and select among those bids deemed “responsible." The 2020 ordinance requires that a “responsible bidder” document pay rates/insurance/benefits, provide evidence of participation in Equal Employment Opportunity Programs, include qualifications of management and supervisory personnel, offer references from the last five years, demonstrate participation in a Registered Apprenticeship program, and disclose any violation of federal, state, or local law.


The City charter amendment in DC-3 would displace the 2020 Responsible Bidder ordinance and introduce a new consideration and rationale: “the adequacy of benefits the bidder provides to its employees, which can impact employee morale and overall performance on the contract.” Where previously, Council imposed a minimum standard of qualification for bidders (subject to price competition), this amendment asks City staff to assess a more general standard of “value.” City staff - and ultimately Council - will have significant discretion to decide when and where more expensive bids are preferred.


DC-4 (21-1321) Resolution to Order Election and to Determine Ballot Question for Amendment to Section 14.2 of the City Charter Related to Emergency (7 Votes Required)

A question would be put on the Nov 4, 2021 ballot for a City charter amendment. The City charter will acknowledge a method for emergency procurement of supplies, materials, equipment, professional services, and construction services without obtaining prior Council approval and securing competitive bidding. The City charter would permit such emergency procurement, according to city ordinance.


DC-5 (21-1322) Resolution to Order Election and to Determine Ballot Question for Amendment to Section 14.2 of the City Charter Related to the $25,000 Dollar Limit (7 Votes Required)

A question would be put on the Nov 4, 2021 ballot for a City charter amendment. The City Administrator would be permitted to make appropriations and purchases of up to $75,000 without competitive bidding or the approval of Council. (The amount of $75,000 would also be subject to adjustment for inflation.) Currently, the limit for such purchases is $25,000.


DC-6 (21-1328) Resolution to Approve Proposed Search Timeline, Talent Rubric, and General Process for City of Ann Arbor City Attorney Job Posting

The timeline and plan for hiring a new City attorney will find a candidate by November 15, 2021, reach an employment agreement by January 10, 2022, and have that candidate working for the city by March 2022, with an annual salary of $180,000–210,000.

Additional thoughts…


In the last month, I have gotten a lot of emails about agenda item B-1, the Early Leasing Ordinance. Hundreds of residents have emailed Council, expressing support for amendments that lengthen a timeline and grant tenants a ‘right to renew.’ Local landlords have written to Council and suggested that the timeline in B-1 - the timeline approved and recommended by UM Central Student Government (CSG) and UM Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) - is not actually in the best interests of renters attending the University of Michigan. Landlords have also raised concerns and complaints around the “right to renew” provisions. After considerable collaboration with GEO, local attorneys, a city attorney, and colleagues on Council, I plan to support amendment of B-1. At this week's meeting, I expect the ‘right to renew’ provisions to be removed, while preserving the timeline endorsed by CSG and GEO.


BACKGROUND

I first wrote about our early leasing ordinance in my newsletter on February 27th. On April 5th, Council Member Radina and I sponsored an ordinance amendment that would have simply swapped numbers (replacing “70 days” with “240 days”). In light of concerns that this change, alone, did not adequately address enforcement issues, Council agreed to a postponement until June 7th.


For the remainder of April, members of GEO and I collaborated with legal and housing staff from the UM, landlords, City staff and others to discuss an enforcement mechanism that exists in other jurisdictions: the tenant’s 'right to renew’ a lease. On May 8th, I submitted a draft ordinance to City attorneys for review. This draft included ‘right to renew’ provisions borrowed from a Seattle ordinance; I asked City attorneys for assistance in drafting an appropriate local ordinance for Ann Arbor that would comply with Michigan law. On June 7th, the early leasing ordinance returned to Council. Since we had not yet received a drafted ordinance from the City’s legal department, it was postponed again (until July 20th). That postponement appears this week as agenda item C-1.


In late June, Council Member Radina and I insisted that ordinance language was needed for the purpose of outreach and discussion with stakeholders. To reduce the risk of further delay, we asked City attorneys to prepare an early leasing ordinance (with "right to renew") for “first reading” at the July 6th Council meeting. The draft language for B-1 was made available on July 2nd. After two months of waiting, we finally had language.


REVIEW and CONSIDERATION

On July 6th, the early leasing ordinance passed unanimously at first reading, with the expectation that it might be amended. Before that Council meeting, I had solicited feedback from four different local attorneys, all of whom had constructive suggestions about how to strengthen this ordinance, in compliance with Michigan law. Last week, leaders from GEO and I met with a City attorney and discussed potential changes to B-1. City attorneys sent formal legal advice to Council on Friday, July 16th, recommending that we remove the “right to renew.”


This weekend, after meeting with Council Member Radina and Council Member Briggs, I circulated an alternate draft of B-1 to Council colleagues, in response to the concerns raised by City attorneys. My alternate draft removes the “right to renew” portion of the ordinance. The revised draft preserves the timeline endorsed by CSG and GEO.


This ordinance has been, from the beginning, a serious collaboration among a variety of stakeholders. The goals of this ordinance have always been centered on tenants: the burden of renting early rests squarely on the shoulders of tenants and it is an equity issue for tenants of less means. Tenants in Ann Arbor and UM students in particular (both undergrad and graduate) are most impacted by early leasing and they have asked for these protections: both an extended timeline and a right to renew.


Over the course of many months, members of GEO and CSG participated in endless forums and meetings, discussing and advocating for this ordinance. Internally, the organizations discussed more than one timeline and arrived at the current compromise. Externally, leaders from both organizations met with multiple Council members, leadership from the Washtenaw Area Apartment Association, as well as staff from UM legal and housing departments, and City legal staff.


NEXT STEPS

I strongly urge my colleagues to approve B-1, especially the timeline. Even without the ‘right to renew’ provision, agenda item B-1 is an important step in acknowledging the needs and rights of tenants. Council has gotten hundreds of emails supporting this specific timeline: a landlord cannot show an apartment or enter an agreement for a subsequent term until 150 days before the end of a current lease term. I am optimistic that a majority of my Council colleagues will support this change.


At our last Council meeting, I described the right to renew as an elegant solution for enforcement of our local early leasing ordinance. I still believe this is true. A number of jurisdictions around the country have implemented (or are implementing) similar tenant protections. In the weeks since we first received the draft of B-1, several local attorneys have offered to work on improving it. I welcome their help and expertise. I believe that Ann Arbor can be a leader in this area of progressive housing policy and I am eager for more conversations that move us forward.



Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!

Elizabeth Nelson

ENelson@A2gov.org


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