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.

City Council Newsletter (July 31, 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, the City Council agenda is fairly packed with three ballot questions for November, amendments to Council Rules, first reading for three ordinances, and second reading for the Early Leasing Ordinance. As with the previous few Council meetings, there may be late additions to the agenda so I encourage everyone to visit the meeting's Legistar link on Monday.


I am a cosponsor for two ordinance items on this agenda: the Early Leasing Ordinance (B-1, Second Reading) and the Conversion Therapy Ban (C-3, First Reading). I have been most directly involved with the Early Leasing Ordinance, meeting for many months and many hours with student and community leaders, landlords, and attorneys. I appreciate Council Member Radina's participation in this work and Council Member Disch's support. I am excited about how these changes will make a meaningful and positive difference for tenants in Ann Arbor! I wrote about the Early Leasing Ordinance in my previous newsletter:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/additional-thoughts-july-18-2021-early-leasing-ordinance


Two items on our Consent Agenda reference places in Ward 4. Item CA-1 is a contract for filling four sidewalk gaps, two of which are located in Ward 4: Stimson and Boardwalk. In answer to questions I asked this week, staff confirmed that installation of the sidewalk on Boardwalk may be delayed to 2022. Item CA-5 will create a Historic District Study Committee for a house in the neighborhood of Lower Burns Park, where notable American poet Robert Hayden once lived. This weekend, I biked by 1201 Gardner and took a picture (see below). You can read more about Mr. Hayden here:

http://a2gov.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=9662347&GUID=C21D045A-DD48-4E41-ABB5-7DF1B5A0084C


https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/robert-hayden


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 Aug 1st 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 Esch Park (near the basketball court, off Esch Avenue)

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


City Council Regular Meeting

Monday Aug 2nd 7:00pm

My summary of the meeting agenda is posted below in this newsletter.

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=829776&GUID=44E0FF26-9E79-4608-8CC1-54F90EA3DB48


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.


City Council Special Session

Wednesday Aug 4th 4:00pm

This is a special session for "Rule 12 Ethics Hearing on Complaint Concerning Councilmember Hayner".

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=879550&GUID=A9DB7476-2DA0-4971-A06F-60C30C727216


This special session was scheduled by a resolution in the July 6th Council meeting based on a complaint filed by Council Member Julie Grand against Council Member Jeff Hayner. Council Member Grand’s complaint is based on a phone conversation between Council Member Hayner and a journalist from MLive. The official complaint requests a reprimand of Council Member Hayner. According the Council Ethics Rule 12, any reprimand of a Council Member must result on one of three possible responses: dismissal without merit, a scheduled hearing before Council, or referral for other action to the appropriate governmental or law enforcement agency. The Council hearing may include accusers and witnesses.


Legistar link to the July 6th resolution scheduling this hearing:

https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5013411&GUID=6C7730C7-B2B6-4860-9D27-44EB71E70896


Read Council Member Grand's complaint here:

https://4aa24807-457d-4d5a-8cd8-d99df50d15a1.usrfiles.com/ugd/4aa248_d84bb36f3e9546a9841b0693dd946d6c.pdf


Earlier this week the Committee to Recall Jeff Hayner announced that it failed to get enough signatures to put a recall election on the November 2021 ballot.

https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/2021/07/recall-effort-to-oust-ann-arbor-council-member-is-dead-as-petition-fails-to-get-enough-signatures.html

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 20, 2021

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/city-council-voting-chart-for-july-20-2021


Short Term Rental Registration Begins July 31, 2021

The City will begin accepting Short Term Rental registrations starting July 31st, using the new "STREAM" online permitting system.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/short-term-rental-registration-begins-july-31-2021


An Irresponsible Termination

On Tuesday, July 20, 2021, a majority of Ann Arbor City Council directed the termination of Tom Crawford as our City Administrator. I was not among them. In the post I have outlined recent events (including links to all relevant primary sources).

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/an-irresponsible-termination

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 8/2/21

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=829776&GUID=44E0FF26-9E79-4608-8CC1-54F90EA3DB48

Ann Arbor City Council Monday Aug 2nd (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 (21-1413) Agenda Response Memo and eComments - August 2, 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

This appointment from the Mayor was presented at the previous meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting. Note that this item was added late to the last meeting agenda, and was not part of my previous newsletter.

  • Donnell Wyche - City Planning 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 (21-1213) Resolution to Award a Construction Contract to Doan Construction Co. (Bid No. 4685) for the 2021 Sidewalk Gap Elimination Project ($439,780.38) and to Appropriate $374,731.00 from the Sidewalk Construction Millage Fund and $56,000.00 in Contributions (8 Votes Required)


CA-2 (21-1239) Resolution to Award a Construction Contract to E.T. MacKenzie Company for On-Call Construction Services in the Amount of $500,000.00 per Year for a Period of Two Fiscal Years ($1,000,000.00 total) (RFP No. 21-16)


CA-3 (21-1251) Resolution to Approve a New DDA Sunday Service Fee and Adjust the Commercial Refuse Collection Services Fees


CA-5 (21-1232) Resolution to Establish the Robert Hayden House Historic District Study Committee


CA-6 (21-1369) Resolution to Approve Street Closings for the 2021 Taste of Ann Arbor Special Event - Sunday, September 19, 2021


CA-7 (21-1368) Resolution to Approve Street Closures for University of Michigan Football Games for the 2021 Season


CA-8 (21-1245) Resolution to Approve the Fuller Park Parking Lot Land Lease with the University of Michigan (8 Votes Required)


CA-9 (21-1281) Resolution to Approve a Work Order with Microsoft Corporation to Enter One Year of Premier Support ($56,004.00)


CA-10 (21-1242) Resolution to Approve Purchase of Multi-Year Support and Maintenance Contract from Hedrick Associates ($90,367.20)


CA-11 (21-1226) Resolution Authorizing Water Capital Recovery Charges for 1868 Upland Dr. ($4,348.00)


CA-12 (21-1227) Resolution Authorizing Sanitary Sewer Capital Recovery Charges for 1868 Upland Drive ($9,890.00)


CA-13 (21-1039) Resolution to Adopt Revised Investment Policy


CA-14 (21-1243) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of Automotive and Truck Replacement Parts with Related Equipment, Accessories, and Services from NAPA Auto Parts (Sourcewell; Not To Exceed $70,000.00)


CA-15 (21-1246) Resolution to Approve a Professional Services Agreement between the City and C&S Engineers Inc. for Work Related to the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport Hangar Project ($62,197.00)


CA-16 (21-1252) Resolution Approving Amendment 2 to the Professional Services Agreement with Harper Electric, Inc. for On-Call City Electrical Services (Not to Exceed $225,000.00) and to Appropriate Funding in the Amount of $150,000.00 from the Fleet Fund Balance and County Mental Health Millage - Sustainability Fund Balance (8 Votes Required)


CA-17 (21-1372) Resolution to Accept a Sanitary Sewer Easement at 2101 and 2141 Medford Road from Ann Arbor Woods Apartments, LLC (8 Votes Required)


CA-18 (21-1375) Resolution to Accept a Water Main Easement at 2449 W. Stadium Blvd from Westgate Enterprises, L.L.C. (8 Votes Required)


CA-19 (21-1296) Resolution to Approve an Administrative Services Agreement with the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti SmartZone LDFA for Administrative and Support Services ($215,840.00 over a two-year period)

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)

The City’s Early Leasing Ordinance will add requirements: for leases longer than eight months, a landlord must communicate the terms of a lease renewal no later than 180 days before the end of the term. Landlords will not be permitted to show rental units to prospective tenants or enter into leases for a subsequent term until 150 days before the end of the current lease term.

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.

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 (21-1253) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 5.25, 5.33, 5.37.2.B, 5.37.2.C, 5.37.2.F, 5.37.2.G, 5.37.2.I, 5.37.2.L, 5.37.2.P, and 5.37.2.S Of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) Of Title V of The Code of The City of Ann Arbor (Outdoor Lighting)

Amendments to the City’s Outdoor Lighting ordinance will further regulate illumination after sunset and before sunrise. Amendments reference color spectrum management, glare, illuminance, and specific standards for “light trespass” on neighboring properties. Illustrations define and regulate appropriate “shielding” of luminaires.


C-2 (21-1264) An Ordinance to Amend Section 5.16.6 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of The Code of The City of Ann Arbor (Home Occupations)

Amendments to the Unified Development Code would more specifically regulate Home Occupations, in light of how and where work from and out of homes is increasing. Regulations ensure that these uses do not have adverse impacts on neighboring properties, infrastructure, and safety. The occupation can consume no more than 25% of gross floor area of a dwelling unit and is limited to a maximum of 2000 square feet in an Accessory building. There can be no more than 24 client visits per day with hours of operation limited from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Heavy vehicles (more than 10,000 pounds) may not be regularly parked on-site.


C-3 (21-1406) An Ordinance to Add Chapter 123 (Prohibition of Conversion Therapy on Minors) to Title IX of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor

A new ordinance will ban “conversion therapy” on minors within the City of Ann Arbor. It will be unlawful for any person who is licensed by the State of Michigan to engage in counseling, practice, or treatment that seeks to change, reduce, or eliminate an individual’s Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, or Gender Expression.


C-4 (21-1404) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 7:360, 7:361 and 7:362 and to Amend by Adding New Sections Which Sections Shall Be Designated as 7:363, 7:364 and 7:365 of Chapter 91 (Endangered Species) of Title VII (Businesses and Trades) of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor

A new ordinance bans sales, offers for sale, and displays for sale or trade of fur products in the City of Ann Arbor. A person may not distribute a fur product for monetary or nonmonetary consideration in the City. Exemptions include re-sale of used items (pawn or vintage), traditional tribal or cultural use by Native Americans, contractual obligations entered into before the effective date of this ordinance, and bona fide zoological, scientific, or education trade.

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 (21-1345) Resolution to Approve Amendments to the Council Rules

Proposed amendments to Council Rules will allow the Chair of a meeting (Mayor or Mayor Pro Tem) to determine when any attendee has engaged in a personal attack that disrupts the meeting or (in language added) is “unrelated to Council business.” The Chair may make a call to order and mute any attendee who is attending remotely.


DC-2 (21-1403) Motion to Reconsider the July 20, 2021 Vote that Approved the Resolution to Direct Actions to Conclude Mr. Crawford’s Employment as the City Administrator

Motion to reconsider DC-7b from July 20, 2021 Council Agenda, in which Council directs the City Attorney to pursue a conclusion of employment for Tom Crawford by September 1, 2021.


DC-3 (21-1409) Resolution to Order Election and to Determine Ballot Question for Charter Amendment to Allow for Ranked Choice Voting (7 Votes Required)

A question would be put on the 11/4/21 ballot for a City charter amendment to allow for ranked choice voting in our local elections (if the state ever passes a law that would permit ranked choice voting). In a conventional election, voters communicate a single choice and, among multiple candidates, a contest can be won with a plurality rather than a majority of votes. A ranked choice system of voting would permit voters to “rank” every candidate for City Council and Mayor numerically in both our partisan primaries and general elections. Ranked choice voting would measure voter preferences more accurately in contests between more than two candidates.


A similar resolution was defeated in August 2020, and I wrote about my support for it here:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/ranked-choice-ballot-proposal-on-aug-6th-agenda


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 Purchases (7 Votes Required)

A question would be put on the 11/4/21 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 11/4/21 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.

Additional thoughts…

I also published this on my website:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/absolute-righteousness


ABSOLUTE RIGHTEOUSNESS

In my service on Council, I have had a front row seat to political rhetoric that aims to magnify policy differences, prompt emotional outrage, and define hard positions that are either constructive or destructive (in Ann Arbor speak: “progressive” or “ANTI-progressive”). At this local level, issues with a real impact on residents (e.g. sidewalks, traffic planning, and housing development) should generate serious debate and meaningful compromise. Instead, these issues are distorted into a zero-sum game in which one position asserts absolute righteousness.


A new majority of Council actively campaigned on the idea that dissent and debate was a negative: more debate makes meetings run longer, and (according to a new majority) long meetings are “undemocratic.” New Council Rules aim to explicitly limit debate and dissent, targeting anyone who might contribute to it. In campaign messaging last year, the Mayor supported this move away from substance and policy — he simply declared all of his own positions “progressive” and labelled any dissent as “conservative.”


Until recently, this political rhetoric has aimed at only one casualty: fact-based, thoughtful policy debate. This month, that rhetoric targets a new casualty: a member of city staff and his professional reputation.


This week, Council moves forward with a decision to end the employment of a city administrator who has served our city with distinction for nearly seventeen years and carried our government through multiple crises. That decision (and its justification) wholly contradicts the findings of an independent investigation. That decision also ignores the investigator’s recommendation to get more information across the whole of the organization. I wrote quite a lot on this topic one week ago. A relevant part:

In the last month, I have pleaded for my colleagues to seek more background and context, anything that would help inform decision-making. Mr. Crawford’s work record within our city organization is significant and knowable. I asked that new Council Members take the time to review and study recent staff assessments to better understand if reports were a concerning pattern, reflective of a bigger problem. It was suggested that new Council Members review the staff survey that preceded Mr. Crawford’s hiring. There was no interest. Moving forward, Mr. Crawford welcomed further scrutiny of his leadership across the whole of our organization and under the specific direction of the Human Resources director and a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion officer. A majority of my colleagues did not believe any more information would be helpful. https://www.a2elnel.com/post/an-irresponsible-termination

Rationalization for this Council decision is an escalation of the same political strategy we have seen before. Where previously, policy questions have been simplified as binary choices (wholly correct or wholly unacceptable), now we see where people and individuals are quickly characterized in the same way. A strategy of simplification and mischaracterization is now applied to both policy and people.


Facts that we know with specificity are clouded with vague and imprecise qualifiers. My colleagues (and members of the community in support of my colleagues) choose words like “multiple” and “repeated” to avoid stating a number that is known: five. A majority of Council believes that the leadership of our organization — about 2200 employees, about 750 of them full-time —should be removed based on disputed allegations from five anonymous people. Each individual allegation is substantiated by a number of people fewer than five.


I challenge anyone to read Mr. Crawford’s response and identify where he is lacking in terms of holding himself accountable, opening more channels for communication, and accepting direction from others for his own improvement and growth:

Tom Crawford's Response to Investigation Report http://a2gov.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=9642230&GUID=E82FFDA6-CD51-44A0-8368-CE7F24C4A0C5

What this means for city staff moving forward: certain categories of allegation cannot be disputed (by an employee or even an independent investigator). There is no apologizing or making amends, either. Our city recognizes no room for reconciliation.


This precedent should concern anyone who might contemplate leading our city: any administrator can now be removed based on disputed, undocumented allegations from fewer than five people. A new majority on Council will reject the findings and recommendations of an independent investigation. We make drastic decisions based on the minimum amount of information, as quickly as possible.


I truly believe that our local government can be better than this. I have written on this topic before:

At the local level, we have the power to make our own decent, principled government. When we wrestle with issues of controversy in our shared community, there is maximum opportunity to hear perspectives, understand them, and reconcile differences if we listen to each other and focus on facts. If we value serious and informed government, we can facilitate that by inviting questions (to be answered) rather than dismissing them, sharing information (to be assessed) rather than ignoring it. Locally, we should be less vulnerable to political manipulation because - no matter how often a lie or mischaracterization is repeated - relevant truths (and direct conversations with each other) are readily available. At this local level, decisions and their consequences are right in front of us for everyone to see clearly, without the distortion of political framing and posturing. https://www.a2elnel.com/post/additional-thoughts-nov-4-2020-decent-principled-government

The circumstances of Mr. Crawford's removal have highlighted and underlined how quickly we conclude that problems are unsolvable, relationships are irreparable. Pointing fingers at our neighbors — declaring them unacceptable and irredeemable —is surely easier than the work of listening and learning from each other.


This divisive climate is not the community I want to live in. It is not good for our city. I thank everyone who has reached out to me in the last two weeks to express concerns about what is happening.



Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!

Elizabeth Nelson

ENelson@A2gov.org


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