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.
Since our last meeting, many people have reached out to Council with concerns about racial injustice, abuse of power, and accountability in our law enforcement institutions. In the last two weeks, CM Jack Eaton and I have had a lot of conversations with residents and advocates, exchanging ideas and listening to perspectives. We have also been in conversation with our Police Chief and members of the Independent Community Police Oversight Commission (ICPOC) about all the issues that have been brought to our attention.
I have attempted to respond to all emails I have received on the topic of our Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). For those who have not already heard: this agreement has been reviewed by our ICPOC and other community advocates - their concerns are being relayed to the legal staff who negotiate that contract. The CBA will return to a City Council agenda no sooner than July.
For those of you most concerned about issues around policing in our local community, I have written more about this in my ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS at the very bottom of this newsletter.
If you would like to receive this newsletter via email before it is published on my website, please click here to signup: https://eepurl.com/dGDKXf
Sunday June 14th 7:00pm
We have been holding Council Caucus on Sunday nights before Council meetings since March 2019. During the COVID-19 crisis, we are holding Caucus via Zoom. Please check the Legistar link below for the latest information.
Ward 4 Virtual Coffee Hours
Monday June 15th 9:00am
Ward 4 Council Members are hosting a virtual coffee hour this Monday (June 15th) at 9 a.m. via Zoom. If you would like to chat with CM Jack Eaton or myself, send one of us an email to get the link (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com)
Monday June 15th 7:00pm
This Monday, Council is meeting again using the Zoom application. The video feed will be broadcast on CTN and YouTube. As with the previous meetings, public comment will be audio only using Zoom. Please check the Legistar link below for the latest information.
Local COVID-19 Information and Links
City of Ann Arbor COVID-19 Updates
Washtenaw County COVID-19 Updates
State of Michigan COVID-19 Updates
Ann Arbor Public Schools are starting to plan for 2020-21 school year
School district homepage: https://www.a2schools.org
School district COVID-19 Updates: https://www.a2schools.org/COVID-19
Reimagine Learning Framework: https://www.a2schools.org/reimagine
Ann Arbor District Library branches are re-opening in phases
Library homepage: https://aadl.org
Re-opening Updates: https://aadl.org/reopeningplans
University of Michigan - Summer classes delivered remotely
University homepage: https://umich.edu
University COVID-19 Updates: https://coronavirus.umich.edu
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 June 1, 2020
Ann Arbor Rejects Racism
This is my statement in response to national and local conversations around racial justice in our community.
A2ZERO: Working Together for Carbon Neutrality
At our June 1st meeting, City Council unanimously adopted a plan (a “living document”) to achieve carbon neutrality in Ann Arbor by 2030. I believe the plan we adopted is stronger and better for the space we created for a more robust exchange of ideas.
Downtown "Healthy Streets" Closures Every Weekend Through Aug 23rd
After approval from Council, certain downtown streets will be closed every weekend from Friday 2 PM through Sunday 8 PM.
Ward 4 Construction Updates
You may have noticed many caution signs being posted around Ward 4 for local road resurfacing. These are part of the $10.6 million contract for the 2020 Street Resurfacing Project, approved by Council on April 20, 2020.
Below are the Ward 4 construction notices that I have been forwarded by City staff. Additional information is available at the City's website:
Street Update June 10, 2020 (Barrington, Carol, Dunmore, Kent, Stephen, Waltham, Warwick, Wimpole)
A construction notice was circulated on June 10, 2020 to affected property owners/residents along Barrington Place, Carol Drive, Dunmore Road, Kent Street, Stephen Terrace, Waltham Drive, Warwick Court and Wimpole Street regarding resurfacing work.
Street Resurfacing Update May 4, 2020 (Ardmoor, Avondale, Barnard, Glen Leven, Normandy, Woodland)
A construction notice was circulated on May 4, 2020 to affected property owners/residents along Ardmoor Avenue, Avondale Avenue, Barnard Road, Glen Leven Road, Normandy Road, and Woodland Drive regarding resurfacing work.
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.
A2 COVID-19 Interview Videos (A2COVID19.com)
I appreciate that members of our community are struggling in different ways right now. Residents have different strategies for coping and adjusting to this new reality. I've been working on a project to explore the personal experiences of our community. I'm interviewing people I know (who are willing to share) and recording what they say. You can find my interviews as blog entries on my website, and also on my YouTube channel.
Link to all A2 COVID-19 articles on my website (videos + transcripts)
Link to my YouTube A2 COVID-19 playlist
A reminder about a few city resources:
A2 Fix It
This is an online system for alerting the city to problems in your neighborhood (e.g. potholes, graffiti, garbage pickup). This is the city’s preferred method for hearing your complaint so they can direct appropriate staff to address it. I’m happy to hear from you, too, but city staff tell me that the online A2FixIt system is actually the quickest and fastest way to get a response to the problem. Information about A2FixIt (and explanation of more urgent issues and appropriate numbers to call) is here: https://www.a2gov.org/services/pages/report-a-problem.aspx
City News and Announcements
This is a helpful link to updates on events and opportunities in Ann Arbor through City Hall: https://www.a2gov.org/news/pages/default.aspx
City Department Updates
If you have specific interests related to the city’s work, e.g. construction projects, deer management, recycling, you can subscribe to receive emailed updates on various topics found here: https://www.a2gov.org/services/Pages/E-mailAlertSubscription.aspx
Boards and Commissions Applications
Membership on Ann Arbor Boards and Commissions is constantly changing as terms end and appointees step down. We need you! You can find openings at the following link (or contact me directly) https://a2gov.granicus.com/boards/w/fe6c5e22e6f4a331/vacancies
HIGHLIGHTS Council Meeting Agenda 6/15/20
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:
Ann Arbor City Council Monday June 15 (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 https://a2ctn.viebit.com/
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-3 (20-0876) June 15, 2020 Agenda Response Memo and eComments
This agenda item has a PDF attachment with all questions raised by Council Members, and the answers provided by staff.
Communications from Council
CC-1 (20-0775) Resolution to Appoint Elizabeth Riggs to the Greenbelt Advisory Commission This nomination is from CM Grand, who serves on the Greenbelt Advisory Commission.
Elizabeth Riggs - Greenbelt Advisory Commission
Communications from the Mayor
MC-1 (20-0789) Appointments - Confirmations These appointments from the Mayor were presented at the previous Council meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this meeting. (Note: these appointments were added to the agenda on the day of the last Council meeting, and were therefore not able to be included in my previous newsletter.)
Ravi Raghani - Elizabeth Dean Fund Committee
Samuel Burnstein - Elizabeth Dean Fund Committee
Robert Jeorg - Energy Commission
Andre Watson - Health and Human Services Advisory Board
Anne Marsan - Park Advisory Commission
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 (20-0731) Resolution to Authorize the City Administrator to Sign the 2021 Washtenaw Coordinated Funders Memorandum of Understanding Extension
CA-2 (20-0732) Resolution to Approve FY 21 Allocations to Non-Profit Entities for Human Services - $1,247,529 (General Fund)
CA-3 (20-0747) Resolution to Ratify an Emergency Purchase Order Request to CivicPlus, LLC for 2020 Day Camp and Other Program Registrations Cancelled and Reimbursed Due to COVID-19 (NTE $465,000.00)
CA-4 (20-0797) Resolution to Approve Two Program Agreements with the USDA-NRCS Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)
CA-5 (20-0748) Resolution to Approve a Contract with Ann Arbor SPARK for Economic Development Services ($75,000.00)
CA-6 (20-0749) Resolution to Approve a Contract with Governmental Consultant Services, Inc. for Lobbying Services ($48,000.00)
CA-7 (20-0765) Resolution to Amend the Installments and Amounts of the Special Assessment Roll for Districts 55, 56, 57, and 60
CA-8 (20-0449) Resolution to Approve an Amendment to the City’s Agreement with The Ultimate Software Group Inc. for UltiPro Human Resources and Payroll Subscription Services for FY2021 - FY2025 ($1,644,163.65) (8 Votes Required)
CA-9 (20-0629) Resolution to Approve a Professional Services Agreement with Davey Resource Group, Inc. for the GIS-Based Inventory Update of City-Owned Trees and Appropriate Funding from the Stormwater Fund ($152,680.00) and Parks Maintenance and Capital Improvements Millage Fund ($22,330.00) (8 Votes Required)
CA-10 (20-0666) Resolution to Approve Extension of the Temporary Employment Agreement between Cresson Slotten and the City of Ann Arbor ($50,0000.00)
CA-11 (20-0670) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order for Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA) and Emulsion to Cadillac Asphalt, LLC ($399,080.00/$199,540.00 annually; ITB-4628)
CA-12 (20-0673) Resolution to Provide Additional Funding for Recycle Ann Arbor’s Municipal Resource Recovery Services (Curbside Recycling) and Appropriate Funds in the Amount of $472,800.00 from the Solid Waste Fund balance. (8 Votes Required)
CA-13 (20-0756) Resolution to Approve Change Order Number 1 to the Construction Contract, with Ideal Contracting, LLC for the Landfill Scale and Entrance Improvements Project for Fiber Optic Network Infrastructure ($275,382.00, contingency $25,540.00)
CA-14 (20-0770) Resolution to Authorize Contract Amendment Number 7 with Recycle Ann Arbor for Municipal Resource Recovery Services
CA-15 (20-0645) Resolution to Approve a Professional Service Agreement with DLZ Michigan, Inc.($173,757.57) and Establish a Project Budget for the 2020/2021 Bridge Inspection Program ($212,000.00)
CA-16 (20-0669) Resolution to Award a Construction Contract to E.T. Mackenzie Company for the 2020 Utility Improvements ($861,457.60)
CA-17 (20-0752) Resolution to Award a Construction Contract to P.K. Contracting, Inc. for Pavement Marking Maintenance ($560,088.25; Bid No. ITB No. 4631)
CA-18 (20-0753) Resolution to Award a Construction Contract to Strawser Construction, Inc. (ITB-4630, $2,367,983.83) and to Appropriate $3,642,400.00 for the FY2021 Street Preventative Maintenance Project (8 Votes Required)
CA-19 (20-0778) Resolution to Ratify an Emergency Purchase Order Request to Gerace Construction Company, Inc. ($9,847.00) for additional spending for the Barton Dam Hoist #5 Base Repair and Superior Inspection Hatch Project
CA-20 (20-0664) Resolution to Approve Optional Coronavirus-Related Distributions from the City’s Deferred Compensation Retirement Plan
CA-21 (20-0796) Resolution to Approve a Grant Application with the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance Program
CA-22 (20-0741) Resolution to Amend Ann Arbor City Budget for Fiscal Year 2020 (8 Votes Required)
Anyone wanting to comment on these issues may speak for 3 minutes, without having specifically reserved time. Issues subject to public hearing will also be up for a vote by Council later in the meeting.
PH-1/DS-1 (20-0525) Resolution No. 4 - Confirming the Proposed Jackson Avenue Sidewalk Gap Project Special Assessment, District #61 (8 Votes Required)
Special assessment district would be established, assessing six property owners for $110,972.00 Jackson Avenue Sidewalk Gap Elimination Project (south side of Jackson Avenue, from Westover Ave. to Park Lake Ave.)
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 at this Council meeting.
Ordinances - First Reading
In order to amend the city code, Council must vote to approve the change, via ordinance, at two Council meetings. The following proposed ordinances are being introduced for approval. If approved, the ordinance will be voted on at a subsequent Council meeting, where it will also be subject to a public hearing.
C-1 (20-0657) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Zoning of 4.5 Acres from PUD (Planned Unit Development) to C3 (Fringe Commercial district), MMG Plymouth Road Mixed Use Rezoning, 3611-3621 Plymouth Road, (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 9 Yeas and 0 Nays)
A 4.5-acre parcel at 3611-3621 Plymouth Road would be rezoned from PUD (Bolgos Property Planned Unit Development district) to C3 (Fringe Commercial district) to allow the site to be redeveloped with a new hotel and renovated restaurant. The original PUD was established in 1973, updated in 1982 and 1986. In 2015, it was rezoned in part to C3 to allow for redevelopment of a Plum Market.
C-2 (20-0900) An Ordinance to Amend Section 1:209 of Chapter 8 (Boards and Commissions) of Title I of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor
This amendment would allow our housing commission (and other entities formed by our housing commission) to execute purchase agreements and take possession of properties by contracts, management agreements, or leases of property with tenants or facility managers. Council would continue to approve the real estate transactions of the Housing Commission.
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.
DS-1 (20-0525) Resolution No. 4 - Confirming the Proposed Jackson Avenue Sidewalk Gap Project Special Assessment, District #61 (8 Votes Required) This is the same as PH-1 above. DC-1 (20-0795) Resolution Declaring June Pride Month in the City of Ann Arbor The City of Ann Arbor declares the month of June “Pride Month”, celebrates gay representation in elected offices in Washtenaw County, and calls on the Michigan Legislature to pass legislation to expand the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act DC-2 (20-0813) Resolution for Override of Mayor’s Partial Veto of R-20-177 (8 Votes Required) This resolution calls for a vote to over-ride Mayor Taylor’s partial veto of the 5/15/20 resolution that allowed unrestricted rebate funds from the County Mental Health and Public Safety millage to enter our budget as uncommitted, general fund dollars. In the same 2020 Budget resolution, our City Administrator was directed to fund Affordable Housing and Climate Action in the 40/40 proportions “promised” in 2017 (this part of the resolution is was not vetoed). DC-3 (20-0851) Resolution in Support of More Substantive Civilian Review of Policing Practices and Incidents City Council asks for changes in state policy that would qualify our Independent Community Police Oversight Commission (ICPOC) to have direct access to the database LEIN (Law Enforcement Information Network) in order to perform the duties listed in our ordinance. Municipal police oversight commissions established by ordinance should be considered law enforcement agencies tasked with reviewing and provide independent oversight to our local police department. If approved, this request would be conveyed to the Governor and all of our state representation in Lansing. See my "Additional Thoughts" section below for more information. DC-4 (20-0852) Resolution to Authorize the Administrator to Provide Notice that the City Will Not Exercise Rights of First Refusal for Covenant-Restricted Housing Units at Stone School Townhomes and Ashley Mews Affordable housing covenants at Stone School Townhomes and Ashley Mews restrict the sale of certain units to income-qualified buyers at restricted prices. The City retains a right of first refusal on these units, which procedurally causes a 60 day delay for sellers. By resolution, this permits the City Administrator to notify any sellers of covenant-restricted affordable housing units at Stone School Townhomes and Ashley Mews that the City will not be exercising its right of first refusal. This permits a sale without a 60 day delay. DC-5 (20-0656) Resolution to Support Washtenaw County and Shelter Association of Washtenaw County (SAWC) as a Result of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Appropriate $250,000 for Current and Future COVID-19 Shelter Response (8 Votes Required) A budget amendment for $250,000 would support Washtenaw County and Shelter Association of Washtenaw County (SAWC). Council would approve a three-party agreement with the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County and Washtenaw County (Office of Community and Economic Development) for the expenditure of up to $250,000 to cover costs potentially reimbursable (through FEMA) costs from March and April and future costs beginning May 1. DC-6 (20-0857) Resolution to Further Approve Outdoor Sales, Service and Consumption of Alcoholic Beverages During the COVID-19 Pandemic The resolution would permit Ann Arbor on-premise liquor license holders to sell on city owned property adjacent to their premises including city streets if they have proper permission from the MLCC. In response to reopening issues, the MLCC has created a new application form for “Limited Permanent Outdoor Service Area Permission” so that local businesses can expand their serving area to achieve social distancing during the pandemic. This resolution will provide Council approval subject to police approval. DC-7 (20-0848) Motions to Waive Council Rules and Reconsider the May 4, 2020 Approval of Resolution 4 - Special Assessment Roll for Nixon and Traver Special Assessment District No. 56. Two motions in this agenda item would:
By two-thirds vote of Council, waive time limitation rule for reconsideration in order to permit reconsideration of a sidewalk special assessment roll on Nixon & Traver which was approved on May 4, 2020
Reconsideration of the sidewalk special assessment roll on Nixon & Traver
DC-8 (20-0859) Resolution Authorizing Amendment Number One to Agreement with Ann Arbor Summer Festival, Inc. for FY20 Community Event Funding A budget amendment for $28,000 would cover city costs for the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, Inc. Top of the Park Event. These summer events have been cancelled, but this reimburses a number of costs that were incurred. DC-9 (20-0858) Resolution Directing Evaluation of City Pedestrian and Cycling Transportation Environment by a Professional Engineer with Vision Zero Expertise The City Administrator would be directed to spend $10,000 available in the Alternative Transportation Fund to contract with Sam Schwartz, a PE with Vision Zero expertise, to review a sample of the city’s pedestrian crossings, including, but not limited to the various facility components utilized across varied geographic installations, related city ordinances and educational communications, and interdependencies, such as, unlit crosswalks and the crosswalk ordinance. DC-10 (20-0860) Resolution in Support for the County-Wide Road and Non-Motorized Millage A four year millage of .5 to fund road and non-motorized path construction and maintenance (passed in 2016) would be extended by ballot in August 2020. Ann Arbor would formally endorse the 2020 Washtenaw County Road and Non-Motorized millage. The city anticipates using it for such projects as Plymouth Road (Murfin to lower Broadway) Resurfacing, Geddes Ave (Church to Highland) Resurfacing, Earhart Road (US-23 to Greenhills) Resurfacing, Miller Ave (Linda Vista to Chapin) Resurfacing, Washington Street Bicycle Boulevard, Asphalt path resurfacing along Packard, and sidewalk gap projects on Ellsworth, Brooks, and Stone School. DC-11 (20-0663) Resolution to Approve a Waiver of the Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) Funding Policies for FY 2020 and FY 2021 (8 Votes Required) This resolution would approve a waiver of Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) Funding Policy for FY2020 and FY2021 to retain money in the city’s operating funds. Excess funding will stay within operating funds and preserve approximately $5 million in the General Fund. Up to $5,237,824 in funding will be needed from the VEBA (Voluntary Employees' Beneficiary Association) Trust and transferred to the Risk Fund to pay for retiree healthcare during FY2021. DC-12 (20-0781) Resolution to Approve a Waiver of the Pension Policy for FY 2020 and FY 2021 (8 Votes Required) This resolution waives portions of the city’s pension policy, suspending a June contribution of $825,448 that would otherwise be transferred into pension funding. Additional reduction of excess pension funding for FY2021 will help maintain operating funds and preserve over $1 million in the General Fund. DC-13 (20-0873) Resolution to Advance Healthy Streets in Downtown Ann Arbor to Promote Safe Social Distancing Outdoors City staff have identified a number of streets downtown (e.g. Division, Miller/Catherine, State) and transit corridors elsewhere (e.g. Broadway, S. Main, Miller, Packard) for various pilot programs of traffic reconfigurations such as removing turns lanes, traffic lanes, and parking lanes to better accommodate physical distancing space and strengthen non-motorized connections to Ann Arbor Housing Commission sites, the Farmer’s Market, UM Hospital, and each quadrant of the City. Staff will report back to Council in 90 days, at which point decisions will be made about extension of removal. DC-14 (20-0874) Resolution to Advance Healthy Streets Outside of Downtown Ann Arbor to Promote Safe Social Distancing Outdoors and Appropriate $15,000 from the FY 2020 Major Street Fund Operations and Maintenance Budget An allocation of $15,000 would come from FY 2020 Major Street Fund Operations and Maintenance Budget to fund Healthy Streets outside of Downtown/DDA district (see DC-13). DC-15 (20-0864) Resolution to Authorize a Pilot Program for Business Occupancy of Curbside Parking Spaces The City Administrator would be authorized to establish procedures and conditions for receiving, reviewing, issuing, and revoking permits for businesses to temporarily use curbside parking spaces in public streets in connection with the sale of goods or services. This additional space could be used for outdoor dining, retail, customer queuing or pedestrian passage. DC-16 (20-0877) Resolution to Request that ICPOC Lead an In-depth, Multi-Stakeholder, and Data-driven Review of Public Safety Services and Provide City Council with Reports and Recommendations This resolution asks ICPOC to collect input and solicit participation from a “wide variety of stakeholders, including without limitation, community members, educators, and government law enforcement, legal, social service, housing, and mental health professionals” to conduct a review of: AAPD recruitment, hiring, and training systems; AAPD operations policies and practices (including those that involve the use of force); best practices for employing alternatives to armed, sworn police officers, such as Police Social Workers or others involved with crisis intervention; the City’s budget (with a particular focus on AAPD’s budget). It must consider the specific public safety needs of the Ann Arbor community as well as the resources and functions provided by governmental units other than the City of Ann Arbor. Additionally, it will provide updates every three months with the goal of a final report of recommendations in 18 months.The City Administrator will make recommendations as to budget and staffing required to perform these tasks. DC-17 (20-0904) Resolution Terminating the Mayor’s Declaration of a Local State of Emergency in Response to COVID-19 This resolutions lifts the local state of emergency that was first declared on March 17, 2020. DB-1 (20-0245) Resolution to Appropriate $21,700.00 from General Fund to Fund Additional Tasks Associated with the Comprehensive Transportation Plan Update Project and to Approve an Amendment to the Professional Services Agreement with Sam Schwartz Consulting, LLC ($373,370.00) (8 Votes Required) Amendment to the contract with Sam Schwartz Consulting, LLC, appropriating $21,700 to fund 146 additional hours of work and the following tasks associated with the Comprehensive Transportation Plan Update Project, including: Inventory of Current Facilities, Documentation of Existing Resources, Develop Report, Commission Presentation, Committee Meetings and Commission Presentation.
Much of what I have seen and heard this week boils down to this: Ann Arbor wants to review police practice (how it happens, what we are funding) and identify potential bias. Our laws should be enforced in a way that is just, compassionate, and supportive of our community — all this must happen with keen awareness of disparate impacts by race. To do that, we need a deeper understanding of where and how police intervene. With that information, we can identify patterns and contemplate solutions that would reduce the need for police intervention. In 2018, Ann Arbor established, organized, and funded a group of citizen volunteers to raise these very issues and bring informed perspective to City Council: the Independent Community Police Oversight Commission (ICPOC).
On the agenda this week, I am sponsoring a resolution that would significantly increase our ICPOC’s direct access to information via the database (LEIN) where police records are kept. Members of ICPOC want to make use of this database and have been denied access by the state agencies that regulate it. Current state policy grants LEIN access to only those organizations that qualify as law enforcement agencies; this policy effectively excludes ICPOC. Our ICPOC can only access these records indirectly, after they have been heavily redacted internally by city staff. Over time and by specific rule changes, the state has stretched the definition of “law enforcement agency” to include people outside of traditional police departments - my resolution asks that the state do the same for oversight commissions like ours. I believe that the work of ICPOC - in support of review, oversight, and accountability - is very much a matter of law enforcement and they need access to LEIN.
The work of creating independent police oversight started years before I was elected. The City recognized the value of community review of our police practices starting in 2016, when the Human Rights Commission (HRC) presented a report to City Council asking for community oversight of our police department. Council Liaisons to the HRC, CM Sumi Kailasapathy and CM Graydon Krapohl, as well as CM Chuck Warpehoski and CM Jack Eaton sponsored the HRC report, which you can find here:
In 2017, Council approved a contract with a consultant for additional expertise regarding police oversight, which led to the establishment of a task force. In the summer of 2018, a racially diverse task force (including lawyers, educators, social workers, community leaders, and youth representatives) worked for hundreds of hours over several months collecting input from community members and debating various elements of independent community police oversight. I attended several of their meetings as an observer. The result of their work was a draft ordinance that contemplated all aspects of how a police oversight commission could function.
The ordinance drafted by that task force was on the City Council agenda on October 1, 2018, sponsored by former CM Sumi Kailasapathy, CM Jack Eaton, and CM Anne Bannister. It failed to get majority support. The work of the task force was ultimately displaced by another document, drafted by Mayor Christopher Taylor. The version introduced by Mayor Taylor is considered by many to be a weaker, watered-down version of the task force proposal. The task force ordinance that was rejected by Council can be found here:
At that meeting on October 1, 2018, I made a public comment (as an audience member) to City Council urging them to approve the task force ordinance and validate that work. I believe that City Council did not empower our commission as much as it could have during the process of adopting an oversight ordinance. Significantly, the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was referenced as an obstacle to some elements of oversight. Our ICPOC has now existed for over a year and can give us meaningful feedback about the nature of their work, how we can empower them. I look forward to suggestions from ICPOC about how we might amend our ordinance to make it stronger.
You can find the current ICPOC ordinance here:
Compliance With Our Ordinance
On this week’s agenda, we have a resolution (DC-16) that asks our ICPOC to evaluate and specifically report on every aspect of our policing department. By ordinance, ICPOC already has broad authority to assess and review our policing policies as well as specific incidents and complaints. The plan in DC-16 asks that ICPOC do all of the review they currently do, plus review City budget, and provide updates to Council every three months. In DC-16, ICPOC is also asked to create what looks to be a very large task force of many more “stakeholders” to consider all of these issues, with a deadline for final report and recommendations 18 months from now.
Typically, an idea of the size and scale of DC-16 - adding so much workload to a commission and adding the involvement of many more people - would be the subject of significant discussion among the whole membership of that commission. By ordinance, ICPOC defines its own work plan and describes its own funding requests to the City Administrator, but this plan reverses that process.
Requests to postpone this agenda item - so that all members of ICPOC could discuss it at their next meeting this coming Tuesday - were denied by the sponsors.
What I see in this agenda item: a process that intentionally excludes the people at the center of our oversight ordinance, and a plan that marginalizes the people meant to be empowered by our oversight ordinance (“the City’s diverse population - especially those who tend to have significant negative interactions with the police”) by diluting them in a crowd of other “stakeholders” and staff. I am also concerned that vague goals and a long timeline (18 months) are a way of kicking the can down the road. This agenda item should have been sent to ICPOC first to get feedback and I hope that we do exactly that on Monday night. I look forward to hearing from ICPOC about what they see as next steps.
The history of our ICPOC ordinance is very important context for the current conversation around our police, accountability, and community voice in assessing our law enforcement needs and practices. Words don’t mean anything if our actions don’t back up what we say. We created a forum for members of our community to voice concerns about policing and now it’s time to listen. I am proud to have helped hire our current Police Chief Michael Cox, who has a deep and personal understanding of what’s at stake.
For those who do not know: our current Police Chief Michael Cox has the unique past experience of being a police officer of color who was previously targeted (and severely beaten) by white colleagues when he was working undercover and racially profiled by law enforcement in Boston. After that incident, Chief Cox continued to work for the same police department - for years, in internal affairs - because he felt a responsibility to help reform it from the inside. We are lucky to have an extremely (and uniquely) qualified police Chief during this historic moment. I know how strongly Chief Cox is committed to high standards and accountability to residents. With the leadership that we have, reform and improved policies constantly happen internally but they will also happen as a result of close engagement with community members. Police Chief Cox is a very important reason for my own optimism moving forward. You can find more information about Chief Cox’s leadership on these issues here:
Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!
Elizabeth Nelson ENelson@A2gov.org
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