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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 30, 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 coming week, due the Primary Election on Tuesday, City Council is meeting on Thursday. We have a fairly short agenda, including a public hearing and final approval for ordinance amendments, funding allocations from the City’s Community Event Fund, and the sale of City-owned property to Avalon for the development of affordable housing.


There are just a few days left until the primary election this Tuesday, This summer, I've spent a lot of time talking with residents about my service, my values, and why I think local government matters. For more on that topic, see my "Additional Thoughts" section below. You can also view it at this link on my website:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/making-local-government-accessible



WARD 4 NEWS: The George

Residents in the vicinity of The George (2502 Packard) should be aware of a public hearing before the Planning Commission on Wednesday, August 3, at 7 p.m. Owners of The George are requesting approval to convert the first floor of their building to 42 additional housing units. City Planning staff have recommended approval of this conversion.


For anyone new to the community: this parcel previously sustained significant retail including a grocery store. Prior to its redevelopment, residents in the surrounding neighborhood enjoyed quite a bit of walkable retail outlets on that site — the original redevelopment plan acknowledged this neighborhood concern and the first floor of the George was designated for commercial retail use.


If you are interested in participating in the Planning Commission meeting around this issue, see the link below:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/public-hearing-for-the-george-conversion-of-retail-space-aug-3-2022

 

Election Day - Tuesday August 2nd

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


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 (although no polling places in Ward 4 are affected). 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


For more information, please visit the City Clerk's webpage:

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



Absentee Ballot Drop Boxes

As a reminder, if you have an absentee ballot but have not yet turned it in - please use a drop box. The City has six drop boxes - including two at City Hall. Ballots will be accepted until the polls close at 8:00PM on Election Day.


For many Ward 4 residents, the closest drop boxes are at Fire Station 6 (1881 Briarwood Circle - near Briarwood Mall) and Cobblestone Farm (2781 Packard Road).

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

  • Larcom City Hall, 301 E. Huron St., always open — Located inside the building, at the north entrance.

  • Larcom City Hall, on Ann Street — Located outside the building by the customer service drop box, on the north side of Ann Street, just east of Fifth Avenue.

  • Veterans Memorial Park Ice Arena and Pool, 2150 Jackson Ave — Parking lot.

  • Ann Arbor Fire Station 5, 1946 Beal Ave — Outside.

  • Cobblestone Farm/Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation Customer Service Center, 2781 Packard Road — Outside.

  • Ann Arbor Fire Station 6, 1881 Briarwood Circle — Northwest side of building, Eisenhower entrance, outside.


Vote Absentee at the City Clerk's Office

There is still time to to request an absentee ballot! Residents wishing to apply for an absentee ballot (or register to vote) should visit the City Clerk's office (second floor of City Hall). The office is open Monday-Friday from 8:00AM to 5:00PM - and will also be open Saturday July 30th (today) from 8:00AM to 4:00PM. The office will also be open on Election Day until the polls close at 8:00PM.


Ann Arbor City Clerk's Office

Second Floor of Ann Arbor City Hall 301 E. Huron St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 Saturday July 30th 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM Sunday July 31st - CLOSED Monday August 1st 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Election Day Tuesday August 2nd 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM


After filling out an application, the Clerk will give the voter an absentee ballot, which can either be filled out in the Clerk's office and submitted - or the ballot can be taken home and dropped in a drop box by 8:00 PM on Election day.


For more information, please visit the City Clerk's webpage:

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


Coffee Hours

Sunday July 31st 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

Thursday Aug 4th 7:00pm

Note that this week's meeting is on a Thursday because of the Primary Election on Tuesday. 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=914277&GUID=542A404E-8388-44AE-BA30-A7F0BD2AD6F0

 

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 18, 2022

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

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/city-council-voting-chart-for-july-18-2022


A2Council.com Update for July 18, 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/20220718


Fixing Coler Road Cut-Through Path

I was very excited to learn that a cut-through path at the end of Coler Road (leading into Woodbury Gardens Apartments) has finally been fixed! Thank you to the resident who brought this issue to me and thanks also to the management of Woodbury Gardens apartments, who were willing to meet with me about getting it fixed.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/fixing-coler-road-cut-through-path


Dicken Woods Water Main Construction begins July 18, 2022

The City sent a notice about construction of a new water main to connect between Maple Road and the end of Dicken Drive. Upon completion of the water main, an asphalt tee turnaround will be constructed in Dicken Woods at the end of Dicken Drive to provide a place for full size waste collection vehicles to safely turn around. The old asphalt path through the woods between Maple and Dicken Dr will be replaced with a concrete sidewalk. Restoration in the woods with appropriate native seed mixes and trees and been coordinated with the City’s Natural Area Preservation unit.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/dicken-woods-water-main-construction-begins-july-18-2022

 

Council Meeting Agenda 8/4/22

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=914277&GUID=542A404E-8388-44AE-BA30-A7F0BD2AD6F0


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 (22-1325) Agenda Response Memo and eComments - August 4, 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 (22-1181) Appointments - Confirmations

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

  • Kristina Glusac - Zoning Board of Appeals

MC-2 (22-1321) Nominations and Appointments for August 4, 2022

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

  • Simi Barr - Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority Board of Directors

 

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 (22-1269) Resolution to Close Washington Street between Thayer and Fletcher for the University of Michigan Campus Fire Safety Awareness Event on Wednesday, September 21, 2022 from 7:00 AM until 4:00 PM


CA-2 (22-1267) Resolution to Approve Street Closures for University of Michigan Football Games for the 2022 Season


CA-3 (22-1082) Resolution to Approve a Professional Services Agreement with Wade Trim Associates, Inc. for the Design of the Gallup Park Vehicle and Pedestrian Bridge ($285,524.06) (RFP No. 22-51)


CA-4 (22-1108) Resolution to Approve a General Services Agreement for Electrical and Instrumentation Support Services with Utilities Instrumentation Service, RFP #22-45 ($750,000.00)


CA-5 (22-1110) Resolution to Approve a General Services Agreement with Ballard Marine, LLC d/b/a Ballard Marine Construction, LLC for Dive Inspection Services (RFP #22-48) ($100,000.00)


CA-6 (22-1112) Resolution to Approve a Construction Contract with Monroe Plumbing and Heating Company for Water Treatment Plant HVAC Maintenance Services (RFP 22-47) ($196,500.00)


CA-7 (22-1113) Resolution to Approve a Professional Services Agreement with Black & Veatch Ltd. of Michigan to Design the Ultraviolet (UV) Disinfection System Replacement Project at the Wastewater Treatment Plant, RFP 22-22 ($307,471.00)


CA-8 (22-1126) Resolution to Award a Construction Contract to A. Z. Shmina, Inc. for the Arbor Landing Lift Station Replacement Project (RFP No. 22-32, $837,000.00)


CA-9 (22-1127) Resolution to Approve Amendment No. 4 to the Professional Services Agreement with Hubbell, Roth & Clark, Inc. for the Lift Station Replacement Project, RFP No. 18-35 ($130,861.00 Amendment, $553,785.00 contract total)


CA-10 (22-1185) Resolution to Appropriate $21,500.00 from the General Fund Fund Balance to Amend the 2022 Annual Sidewalk and Ramp Repair Project for the Replacement of the Existing Path Between Yorkshire Road and Allen Elementary School. (8 Votes Required)


CA-11 (22-1114) Resolution to Approve a Construction Contract with Fonson Company, Inc. ($892,109.00), Approve a CDBG Subrecipient Agreement with the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development ($676,000.00) and Appropriate $1,227,889.00 in Contributing Funds for the Russell Street Improvements Project (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.

PH-1/B-1 (22-1051) An Ordinance to Amend Tables 5.15-1 (Primary Use Table) and 5.17-2 (Two-Family Residential Zoning District Dimensions) of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (ORD-22-11)

An amendment to the Uniform Development Code (UDC) will add “religious assembly” as a primary use in the M1 (Limited Industrial) district. This amendment was requested by Oxford Properties. A second amendment to the UDC will reduce minimum lot sizes, areas, and setbacks in the R2A zoning district. The minimum lot size in the R2A zoning district is currently 8,500 square feet and would decrease to 5,000 square feet. The current minimum lot area per dwelling is 4,250 square feet and the proposed amendment would reduce it to 2,500 square feet. The rear setback requirement would also be reduced from 30 to 20 feet. These amendments to R2A were initiated by the Planning Commission.

 

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 (22-1051) 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 "first reading". If approved, the ordinance will be voted on at a subsequent Council meeting ("second reading"), where it will also be subject to a public hearing.


There are no ordinance first readings on the agenda.

 

Motions and Resolutions

The following agenda items are motions and resolutions, which are approved or rejected in a single meeting. Agenda items marked "DC" are proposed by Council members, items marked "DB" are proposed by City boards and commissions, items marked "DS" are proposed by City staff.


DC-1 (22-1319) Resolution to Approve the Sale of City-Owned Property at 1146 South Maple to Avalon, Housing, Inc. for the Development of Affordable Housing (8 Votes Required)

The 1.15 acre City-owned property at 1146 South Maple will be sold to Avalon Housing for $260,000. In 2019, the City exercised a right of first refusal in order to buy this property for $260,000. Avalon plans to develop 14 units of affordable housing on this site.


DC-2 (22-1326) Resolution for Community Events Fund Disbursements from the FY 2023 Budget

This resolution allocates $59,000 from the FY23 Community Event Fund budget. The Ann Arbor Community Events Committee recommends funding to sixteen different community organizations and events in amounts ranging between $125 (Veterans Day Memorial) and $32,000 (Ann Arbor Summer Festival).


DS-1 (22-1271) Resolution Authorizing Summary Publication of Ordinance 22-11 - An Ordinance to Amend Tables 5.15-1 (Primary Use Table) and 5.17-2 (Two-Family Residential Zoning District Dimensions) of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of The Code of The City of Ann Arbor - Amendments to M1 permitted uses and R2A minimum dimensions

With Council approval, the ordinance amendments in B-1 will be summarized to spare expense while satisfying publication requirements.

 

Additional thoughts…

I also published this on my website:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/making-local-government-accessible



Making Local Government Accessible

This summer, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to residents and explaining my work representing Ward 4. I’ve met a lot of people who do not follow our local government at all, and I have explained my orientation to our local politics these last four years. As I look ahead to Tuesday, it feels like an appropriate time to reflect on my service.


POLITICAL LANDSCAPE

I was first motivated to run for office in 2018 after watching a particularly contentious debate at a Council meeting in which Council members repeated talking points, aggressively simplified, and effectively distorted a fairly complicated legal issue. I wondered: why were the talking points in that debate so disconnected from the facts of the issue? Why was this issue being framed as simple/obvious when it was actually complicated? Why were people distorting this issue and pretending that there was no room for debate?


In 2018, I had a lot of conversations with residents and community leaders, trying to figure out WHY our politics were like this. I heard very broad explanations of their own political beliefs and their assessment of others’ political beliefs. I recognized that issues of controversy were regularly exaggerated or distorted to amplify differences. Instead of acknowledging the complexity of an issue and digging into the substance of it, elected leaders (and other loud voices in our community) would simply define one position or another as wholly righteous or entirely wrong. I noticed also: residents who had very strong opinions about our local politics often focused on people: whom they liked or whom they disliked.


Many residents complained that the work of City Council was difficult to anticipate, that they had no way of knowing what decisions their elected leaders were preparing to vote on, so they had no opportunity to weigh in. Residents only learned about big issues after decisions were already made, after their elected representatives had voted in a way they didn’t like.


IDENTIFYING A PROBLEM

In 2018, I wanted to understand the record of the incumbent I was challenging, but the actual record of our City Council was nearly impossible to find. Local media coverage was understandably limited. The public record of decisions and votes was literally buried in meeting minutes (published over a week after the meeting). I found this concerning: how could anyone in our community assess the record of an elected official if they literally could not find the facts of what Council had done?


Since my election, my work on Council has focused on three goals:


Promoting fact-based debate and understanding of our local issues of controversy

I have published newsletters in advance of every Council Meeting, organizing and compiling as many direct links as I could to help residents find primary sources of information about all the issues on the agenda. I am now the only member of City Council who has regularly scheduled coffee hours in advance of our meetings, open to anyone who wants to show up and ask questions or raise concerns.


Making the decisions of Council - and my own record - as clear and transparent as possible

I sponsored a resolution asking that draft meeting minutes be published within days after our meetings. I have published nearly 100 voting charts - within 24 hours of every meeting - to illustrate the votes taken by City Council in a way that is clearer and more accessible than meeting minutes. I’ve written dozens of blog posts articulating my positions on issues of controversy. I created a database at A2COUNCIL.com, organizing links to all information related to every Council meeting: official agenda and meeting minutes, YouTube recordings, my own content related to that meeting, and relevant MLive articles.


Listening to and responding to the concerns raised by residents of Ward 4

Nearly all of the work I have done on City Council originated with resident concerns. We passed an ordinance addressing discrimination in rental housing because a Ward 4 resident told me about this problem and I pushed it forward. I advocated for regulation and licensing of short term rentals (Airbnb) because a resident alerted me to what she saw in her own Ward 4 neighborhood. I asked for accelerated improvement of and additional funding for resident-requested paths and sidewalks because Ward 4 residents asked for it. I have fought for tenant protections because residents in Ward 4 (and beyond) educated me about serious problems in our rental market. In between, I have helped countless residents navigate the bureaucracy of City Hall, helping them get answers to questions about city policy and procedures


WHY THIS MATTERS

In the last two months, people have noted considerable similarity between my policy positions and those claimed by my main opponent. Residents have asked me “what is the difference” between me and other candidates in this election. I tell them: I have a record of service, fulfilling the campaign promises I made around public engagement and working hard on behalf of residents in Ward 4. Many residents have raised alarm at the misinformation they have seen: distortions of my record that have been spread in mailers, online, and by text message. I’ll admit that I was quite surprised. For years now, I have worked very hard to make facts and truth readily available to our community. I did not expect misinformation to feature so prominently in any campaign against me.


Most recently, people have noticed and raised concerns about a network of established politicians (nearly all from outside of Ward 4) who lend support to my opponent, despite my strong record as a local representative who promotes transparency, increases public engagement, and truly listens and advocates for resident concerns. A relatively small number of powerful and wealthy people have leveraged considerable resources to remove me. One third of my opponent's finances come from fifteen very large donations ($1000 or more); thirteen of these big donors live outside the ward or outside the city entirely. Residents are disturbed to see so much money and influence from outside of Ward 4 pushing back against local representation.


Whatever happens on Tuesday, I am grateful for the many residents who appreciate serious, representative government at this local level. I have worked hard to make our local government more accessible to and responsive to the community we serve. If nothing else, the last few years have been an experiment in democracy!


If you have not already made a plan to vote on Tuesday (or you have a completed absentee ballot sitting on a kitchen counter), now is the time to do your part and participate in our democracy!



Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!

Elizabeth Nelson


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