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 (Nov 29, 2019)

Hello neighbors!

This week’s agenda is relatively short, with three public hearings and a couple of site plans up for approval (212 S. State Street and 616 E. Washington). Like our last meeting, the biggest topic on our agenda is tucked in the consent agenda: a contract for processing our recyclable waste. See my "Additional Thoughts" section below for more explanation.

Since our last meeting, I heard from a number of residents about the damage caused by cars parking on the grass at Allmendinger during the UM/MSU game. CM Eaton and I have communicated with the police department, asking for more supervision of that area during this week’s game against Ohio State. I hope that we don’t see it happen again.

Also since our last meeting, CM Eaton and I met with residents who periodically list their own homes on AirBnB for extra income. The city is well aware of the different categories of short-term rentals, the different situations (e.g. primary residence vs. absentee landlords). Council is still waiting on a report from consultants and staff re: options and recommendations for regulation. I’m told that we can now expect to receive this report in January of the new year.

I encourage everyone to participate in a transportation survey, now on the city’s website. The city is asking for feedback about five focus corridors and asks for your priorities on how to prioritize users (cars, pedestrians, cyclists, and transit). Last week, I visited the City’s open house for this survey; it was well-attended. If you haven’t already, visit the online survey and share your thoughts with the city! https://www.a2gov.org/services/Pages/OpenCityHall.aspx?pd_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.opentownhall.com%2Fportals%2F116%2FIssue_8057#peak_democracy

Lastly, for those of you who regularly visit my coffee hours (or anyone who might be considering it), due to scheduling conflicts it will be at a different location for the month of December: Argus Farm Stop on Packard. I hope this is a convenient opportunity for us to meet in person and hear perspectives.

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

Council Caucus

Some of us on City Council have decided to resume a tradition of “Council Caucus” on Sunday nights. I am looking forward to this opportunity for additional open, public conversation around the issues that matter to you!

Council Caucus Sunday Dec 1 (7:00-9:00pm) City Hall 2nd Floor 301 E Huron St


  • Public comment general time. (Three minutes, no need to signup in advance and speakers will be assigned in the order of arrival.)

  • Discussion, primarily topics on the next day's Council agenda.

More Information:

  • One or more council members will be present for each caucus.

  • Children are welcome. (Books and crayons provided)

For more information about Council Caucus, see the city website at: https://www.a2gov.org/departments/city-council/Pages/CityCouncilMeetings.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

Ready Ann Arbor Community Preparedness Training applications due Dec 6th

The Ann Arbor Police and Fire departments have scheduled the next Ready Ann Arbor Community Preparedness Training for early 2020. Applications are due Dec 6th. https://www.a2elnel.com/post/ready-ann-arbor-community-preparedness-training-applications-due-dec-6th

Apply Now for the 2020 Ann Arbor Citizens Academy (due Dec 14th)

Apply now to be a part of the next Ann Arbor Citizens Academy. Applications are due Dec 14th, and the academy will be be run Jan-Mar 2020. https://www.a2elnel.com/post/apply-now-for-the-2020-ann-arbor-citizens-academy-due-dec-14th


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 Nov 18, 2019 https://www.a2elnel.com/post/city-council-voting-chart-for-nov-18-2019

Housing + Affordability Public Discussions Dec 5th-9th The City will host five public meetings about affordable housing from Dec 5th - 9th. https://www.a2elnel.com/post/housing-affordability-public-discussions-dec-5th-9th

Transportation Focus Corridors survey open until Dec 9th The City is updating its Comprehensive Transportation Plan, and has opened a survey about prioritizing modes of transportation in "focus corridors". https://www.a2elnel.com/post/transportation-focus-corridors-survey-open-until-dec-9th

MDOT Survey for I-94 between Ann Arbor-Saline Road and US-23 The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has an online survey about design alternatives being proposed on I-94 in Ann Arbor. https://www.a2elnel.com/post/mdot-survey-for-i-94-between-ann-arbor-saline-road-and-us-23

2020 Deer Management Program Details The City announced deer management plans that will run from Jan 2-26, 2020. https://www.a2elnel.com/post/2020-deer-management-program-details

Ann Arbor Launches new Carbon Neutrality Initiative The Office of Sustainability and Innovations launched A2ZERO to support planning and implementation activities needed to achieve carbon neutrality in Ann Arbor by 2030. https://www.a2elnel.com/post/ann-arbor-launches-new-carbon-neutrality-initiative


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


HIGHLIGHTS Council Meeting Agenda 12/2/19

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=656018&GUID=E3E01FB0-46A8-4CE6-A6F6-6B899DA6FDE4

Ann Arbor City Council Monday Dec 2 (7:00pm) City Hall 2nd Floor 301 E Huron St

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.

Agenda Response Memo and eComments Because of the holiday weekend, answers to questions raised by Council Members will not be published until Monday at 5pm (two hours before the meeting begins). It will be posted in the Agenda as an "AC" item.


Communications from the Mayor

MC-1 (19-2155) Appointments - Confirmations These Mayoral appointments were introduced at the 11/18/19 Council meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting.

  • John Fournier - Economic Development Corporation Board

  • Brock Hastie - Employees’ Retirement System Board of Trustees

  • Brock Hastie - Retiree Health Care & Benefit Plan and Trust Board of Trustees (VEBA)


Consent Agenda

Below is the list of items included on tomorrow’s 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 (19-2063) Resolution to Authorize the Purchase of Two Polaris Ranger EV Utility Vehicles from Polaris Sales Inc.(Sourcewell - $27,064.46)

CA-2 (19-2064) Resolution to Authorize the Purchase of Two Doosan Air Compressors from Cloverdale Equipment Company (Sourcewell - $45,450.00)

CA-3 (19-2073) Resolution to Authorize the Purchase of One Ventrac Tractor with Accessories from J.W. Turf Inc. (Sourcewell - $42,577.25)

CA-4 (19-2123) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of Vehicles from Signature Ford (Macomb County Bid - $264,733.00)

CA-5 (19-2124) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of Vehicles from Berger Chevrolet (Oakland County Bid, MiDeal Bid - $211,865.00)

CA-6 (19-2139) Resolution to Authorize the Purchase of Heavy Truck and Equipment Repair Parts for the City’s Fleet for Five Years Beginning FY2020

CA-7 (19-2020) Resolution to Approve a Services Agreement with Emterra Environmental USA Corp. for MRF Operations and Recyclables Processing (5-Year term; $2,161,250.00 estimated for Year 1, with One Potential 5-Year Extension)

CA-8 (19-2095) Resolution to Approve a Two-Year Professional Services Agreement (PSA) with A. F. Smith Electric, Inc. for Electrical Services for Parks & Recreation for a Not to Exceed Annual Amount of $100,000.00

CA-9 (19-2096) Resolution to Approve a Two-Year Professional Services Agreement (PSA) with Metro Controls, Inc. for Mechanical Services for Parks & Recreation for a Not to Exceed Annual Amount of $200,000.00

CA-10 (19-2104) Resolution to Adopt the Board of Review Guidelines for Poverty Exemptions from Property Taxation of Principal Residence Pursuant to MCL 211.7u

CA-11 (19-2102) Resolution Regarding the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act “Competitive Process” for Adult Use Retailers, Designated Consumption Establishments, and Microbusinesses


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 (19-2038) An Ordinance to Amend Section 7.34 of Chapter 77 (Fees and Bonds Required) of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Ordinance No. ORD-19-39) City fees for “Going Out of Business Sale” permits are now set at $115, but would be reduced to $50. Our current permit fee is in violation of state statute, which sets the maximum permit fee at $50. This amendment will bring local ordinance into compliance with state law.

PH-2/DB-1 (19-2089) Resolution to Approve 212 S. State Street Site Plan and Development Agreement, (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 6 Yeas and 0 Nays) A site plan for 212 South State Street will allow for construction of 6 story residential building with 19 residential units sized from studio to two bedrooms. Private drive easements have been arranged for solid waste pickup, ingress/egress easements provide access to E. Liberty and E. Washington, and off-site bicycle parking is at 616 E. Liberty. Solar roof panels have been added with a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Historic District Commission.

PH-3/DB-2 (19-2091) Resolution to Approve 616 East Washington Planned Project Site Plan and Development Agreement, at 616 East Washington Street (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 6 Yeas and 0 Nays) A planned project site plan at 616 East Washington will allow for construction of a 19 story building with 240 dwelling units, 127 structured parking places, and 5.250 sq. ft. of retail space. An additional 200% of floor area is permitted because the project includes 19 permanent affordable dwelling units: 13 for individuals earning 80% or less of AMI and 6 units for individuals earning 60% or less of AMI. 


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 (19-2038) An Ordinance to Amend Section 7.34 of Chapter 77 (Fees and Bonds Required) of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Ordinance No. ORD-19-39) This 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 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 (19-2147) An Ordinance to Amend Section 1:207 of Chapter 8 (Transportation Commission) The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA) would be given the flexibility to appoint one or more alternates to represent the AAATA (and vote on behalf of AAATA) at Transportation Commission meetings.


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 (19-2177) Resolution to Appointing Richard Chang to the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority Board (7 votes required) This Mayoral appointment was introduced at the 11/18/19 Council meeting, and will therefore be voted on this next Council meeting. 7 votes are required because the nominee is not a resident of Ann Arbor.

  • Richard Chang - Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority Board

DC-2 (19-2178) Resolution to Reappoint Julie Lynch to the Employee Retirement System Board of Trustees and VEBA (7 Votes Required) This Mayoral appointment was introduced at the 11/18/19 Council meeting, and will therefore be voted on this next Council meeting. 7 votes are required because the nominee is not a resident of Ann Arbor.

  • Julie Lynch - Employee Retirement System Board of Trustees & VEBA

DC-3 (19-2206) Resolution to Appoint Ayesha Edwin to the Human Rights Commission (7 Votes Required) This Mayoral appointment was introduced at the 11/18/19 Council meeting, and will therefore be voted on this next Council meeting. 7 votes are required because the nominee is not a resident of Ann Arbor.

  • Ayesha Edwin - Human Rights Commission

DC-4 (19-2280) Resolution to Oppose House Bills 4020; 4021; 4022; 4026; 4027; 4028; 4029; 4194; 4200; 4770; 4771; 4772; 4773 and any Similar Bill which would Expand Michigan’s Concealed Carry Laws, Negatively Affect Public Safety by Making Guns Easier to Obtain and Carry, and Generally Make Michiganders More Susceptible to Gun Violence City Council expresses opposition to a cluster of bills that have been introduced in the state legislature, expanding Michigan’s conceal carry laws. We oppose these proposed laws because they would make guns easier to obtain and carry. The City Administrator is directed to actively engage with our state elected officials to ensure that these bills and similar bills are not enacted by the Michigan Legislature.

DC-5 (19-2281) Resolution to Support Center of the City Interim Use and Long Term Planning for the Center of the City/Library Lot Property The City and the DDA will coordinate to use revenue from Library Lane surface parking to fund Center of the City improvements, establishing a dedicated fund to receive those revenues. This revenue will be used for initial planning costs, as recommended by the Center of the City Task Force. The city administrator will also obtain easements to create pedestrian pathways within the Library block to connect William Street and Liberty Street with Library Lane, an easement to connect Liberty Plaza with the Library Lane site. Funding for implementation of the Center of the City Charter Amendment will be included in the FY2021 budget proposal, evaluating the use of all funding sources to support pedestrian connectivity, landscaping, maintenance, security, and programming. The City administrator will collaborate with the DDA to plan and fund other improvements such as internet connectivity, on-site utilities, restrooms, temporary and fixed performance space, furniture, barrier free game areas, bicycle parking, and solar electricity.

DC-6 (19-2316) Resolution to Endorse Moving the State’s “White Cane” Crosswalk Law Language from the Traffic Code to the Vehicle Code in State Law The state’s “White Cane” requires that drivers stop and take precautions if they come within ten feet of a blind pedestrian carrying a white cane or being led by a guide dog (failure to do so is a misdemeanor). This law is part of the state Traffic Code, which is optionally adopted by local governments.  City Council would endorse moving the “White Cane” law to the state Vehicle Code, where it would be mandatory statewide.

DC-7 (19-2317) Resolution to Establish 2020 Council Calendar The dates for regular City Council meetings as well as work sessions are scheduled for 2020.

DB-1 (19-2089) Resolution to Approve 212 S. State Street Site Plan and Development Agreement, (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 6 Yeas and 0 Nays) This is the same as PH-2 above.

DB-2 (19-2091) Resolution to Approve 616 East Washington Planned Project Site Plan and Development Agreement, at 616 East Washington Street (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 6 Yeas and 0 Nays) This is the same as PH-3 above.


Additional thoughts…

The most significant item on this week’s agenda is a contract for the city’s solid waste program. I have received a number of emails on this topic and various community leaders (including former mayor Liz Brater) have offered insights and perspective on the issue. Ann Arbor is in need of a long-term plan for handling recyclable materials — our local material recovery facility (MRF) is no longer functional and our recyclables are currently being shipped to a facility in Cincinnati.

In August, the city generated an RFP (Request for Proposals) to handle the city’s recycling program. That RFP included two contract options:

  • receive recyclables at the local MRF for transloading to an off-site MRF

  • equip and modify the City’s MRF for receipt, processing, and marketing of recyclable materials.

Agenda item CA-7 considers contract proposals received from two entities: Emterra and Recycle Ann Arbor (RAA). Staff recommends that Council approve a five year contract with Emterra.

Emterra (based in Flint) has over sixty municipal contracts throughout Michigan and 43 years experience in collecting, processing, and marketing commodities. They submitted a proposal for only option 1, with plans to transfer Ann Arbor’s recyclables to a single-stream MRF facility in Lansing. Emterra’s MRF in Lansing is expected to open in June 2020, with capacity for 40,000 tons per year.

Recycle Ann Arbor is a local nonprofit with experience collecting recyclables in Ann Arbor since the 1970s; it has contracted with the city since the 1980s. They operate multiple locations in Ann Arbor and Scio township, collecting various debris and materials. RAA submitted proposals for both option 1 and option 2 of the RFP. For option 1, RAA would transfer materials to a MRF located in Southfield, Michigan. For option 2, RAA proposes refurbishment and use of the existing equipment at our local MRF.

The memo that Council received on this agenda item offers some general explanation comparing the Emterra and RAA proposals. You can find that memo, a protest letter from RAA, the City’s response, and other background materials in the attachments to this week's Consent Agenda item CA-7 (19-2020) https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4247440&GUID=01AC6B09-AFA9-487B-A8FB-75FEDFD2B61E

I expect this subject to prompt a lot of Council questions to the agenda. Unfortunately, because of the holiday weekend, instead of receiving the answers to our questions on the Thursday before the Council meeting, we will not receive answers to our questions until Monday at 5 p.m (two hours before the Council meeting begins). There are a couple things on my mind as I consider the memo and its recommendation.

First, I am not happy about this item coming right after a holiday weekend, when we have the least amount of time to review answers to our questions. Council changed the schedule for these questions/responses precisely because we recognized that two hours was not enough time to consider a lot of new and clarifying information. I have a lot of questions. E.g. The fee structure of each proposal is described vaguely, with only brief mention that RAA scored slightly better for cost. According to the memo, the revenue share proposed by RAA does not follow industry standards and other aspects deviate from the RFP (and this brought down their score) but there’s no further explanation of how either is a disadvantage to the City.

Second, I have heard concerns from many members of our community that it would be folly to abandon processing at our local MRF. The recommended contract with Emterra would have our materials transported 60 miles away to Lansing. (I am told that when our local MRF was functioning, we received recyclable materials from surrounding communities nearer to us than that.) I tend to agree with residents who believe that Ann Arbor should continue to lead as a regional center for processing recyclables. We are told that it is unacceptable that the RAA proposes to refurbish (rather than replace) equipment in the MRF. I am interested in a more thorough discussion of what we think is necessary in order to resurrect our local MRF.

I thank everyone who has reached out to me on this topic. I appreciate your feedback and insights and I look forward to a serious discussion on Monday night.

Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!

Elizabeth Nelson ENelson@A2gov.org

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