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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 (Oct 2, 2021)

Hello neighbors!

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


This week’s agenda is fairly light, with a relatively short consent and regular agenda. The most significant item on our agenda is perhaps C-1, which will require reporting and benchmarking of utility data, for the benefit of current and potential tenants of properties. This proposed ordinance comes from the Office of Sustainability and Innovations.


Several residents have reached out to me with questions about the upcoming special election. I have written about the November ballot initiatives below in my "Additional Thoughts" section.


There was a special session this past Monday (Sept 27th) to make two important decisions. First, Council voted to hire Milton Dohoney, Jr. as an Interim City Administrator starting later this month. Second, we identified two lead candidates for the position of City Attorney. Before both names could be publicized, one of the two candidates withdrew. The remaining candidate, Atleen Kaur, will be interviewed by City Council during a Special Session this Wednesday, Oct 6th.


MLive article about Milton Dohoney, Jr.

https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/2021/09/ann-arbor-votes-to-hire-first-black-city-administrator-in-over-40-years.html


MLive article about Atleen Kaur

https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/2021/09/ann-arbor-eyes-attorney-with-corporate-background-to-lead-citys-legal-office.html



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COVID Emergency Rental Assistance

Anyone who is behind on rent or concerned they will be behind on rent should apply for COVID Emergency Rental assistance through Washtenaw County - this post has more information and a link to the County's website.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/covid-emergency-rental-assistance


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/


Coffee Hours

Sunday Oct 3rd 3:00pm

I hold coffee hours Sunday afternoons at 3pm before City Council meetings. Now that Industrial Highway is open in both directions, I have returned to RoosRoast at 1155 Rosewood, meeting outdoors on the lawn (but see my note about this week below!)


It looks like tomorrow’s weather is uncertain (50% chance of rain), so I am considering the possibility of holding my coffee hours via ZOOM. If the weather is clear, I would prefer to meet in person but I would like to delay a decision until tomorrow. I encourage you to email to me if you would like to be updated (noon tomorrow), with either a ZOOM link or confirmation that I plan to be at RoosRoast!


EDIT: The rain has stopped - we are meeting in person!


City Council Regular Meeting

Monday Oct 4th 7:00pm

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

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=829780&GUID=0CC4902D-C469-41C1-9960-793BE3CCED3E


City Council Special Work Session

Wednesday Oct 6th 4:00pm

This is a Council work session to interview the finalist for head City Attorney, Atleen Kaur.

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=897266&GUID=7265443F-72C2-4C14-B8E5-01C2389357B2


Information about the interview process and about Atleen Kaur was posted on the City's website:

https://www.a2gov.org/news/pages/article.aspx?i=828


City Council/DDA Joint Work Session

Tuesday Oct 12th 7:00pm

This is the annual joint City Council / Downtown Development Authority (DDA) work session.

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=829794&GUID=BB087996-D339-40DE-B51C-17DE8BAA9141

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

A2ELNEL.com Website Updates

In addition to writing this newsletter, I post updates to my website with my perspectives on how issues were resolved at City Council and details on how Council voted at each meeting. I also post information about meetings and issues that affect Ward 4 residents, along with news that affects all city residents.

You can see a listing of all my posts here: https://www.a2elnel.com/blog/

City Council Voting Chart for Sept 20, 2021

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


City Council Voting Chart for Sept 27, 2021

This was a Special Session to decide next steps in the search for an Interim City Administrator and head City Attorney.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/city-council-voting-chart-for-sept-27-2021


Ann Arbor Community Commons F.A.N. Event Sunday Oct 3, 2021 (2-6PM)

The Ann Arbor Community Commons (A2C2) will be hosting a F.A.N. event (Fun, Art, Nutrition) downtown at the Central Park Commons (Library Lane and 5th Avenue)

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/ann-arbor-community-commons-f-a-n-event-sunday-oct-3-2021-2-6pm


Industrial Highway Resurfacing (Sept 29 - Oct 3 2021)

The north end of South Industrial Highway (at Stadium) and the south end (at Eisenhower) will be resurfaced from Wednesday, September 29 through Sunday, October 3, 2021 (weather permitting). https://www.a2elnel.com/post/industrial-highway-resurfacing-sept-29-oct-3-2021


Renters Commission: Giving Renters a Voice At our last meeting, I was pleased to see the unanimous approval of agenda item DC-2, creating a new Renters Commission. I am cautiously optimistic that its membership can and will be reflective of perspectives we aim to hear more clearly. https://www.a2elnel.com/post/renters-commission-giving-renters-a-voice

Absentee Ballot Information for November 2021 Election Information about voting absentee for the election this November. https://www.a2elnel.com/post/absentee-ballot-information-for-november-2021-election

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 10/4/21

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=829780&GUID=0CC4902D-C469-41C1-9960-793BE3CCED3E

Ann Arbor City Council Monday Oct 4th (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 (21-1738) Agenda Response Memo and eComments - October 4, 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 (21-1642) Appointments - Confirmations

This appointment from the Mayor was presented at the last meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting.

  • Larry Eiler - Economic Development Corporation Board

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 (21-1555) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order to AmeriNet of Michigan, Inc. for a 3-Year Network Equipment Maintenance and Software Support Agreement for FY2022-FY2024 ($260,573.15) (GSA Schedule IT 70 - GS-35F-0511T)


CA-2 (21-1591) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order to AmeriNet of Michigan, Inc. for the Purchase of Networking Equipment, Software and Related Services to Replace Legacy Data Center equipment and upgrade the City’s Data Center Network to a Fabric Connected Network ($106,569.35) (GSA Schedule IT 70 - GS-35F-0511T)


CA-3 (21-1578) Resolution to Approve Purchase of Storage Area Network (SAN) from CDW Government, LLC with Related Financing Through Pure Storage Finance ($844,598.00)


CA-4 (21-1590) Resolution to Approve the Attached Quote with CDW Government, LLC for Renewal of Adobe Subscription Licenses and Related Services ($33,507.53)


CA-5 (21-1561) Resolution to Approve a Construction Contract with Granite Inliner, LLC for the Nichols Arboretum Sanitary Sewer Lining Project ($1,734,293.00) (ITB 4686)


CA-6 (21-1635) Resolution to Accept an Easement for Public Right-of-Way from Traver Lakes Community Maintenance Association (8 Votes Required)


CA-7 (21-1703) Resolution to Temporarily Relocate Precincts 3-6 and 3-9 from Scarlett Middle School, 3300 Lorraine, to Mitchell Elementary School, 3550 Pittsview Drive, for the City Special Election on Tuesday, November 2, 2021


CA-8 (21-0845) Resolution to Assess Certain Delinquent Municipal Utility Charges as a Tax and Ordering Collection Thereof


CA-9 (21-1601) Resolution Levying Certain Delinquent Municipal Solid Waste, Board Up, Clean Up, Vacant Property Inspection Fees, Housing Inspection Fees, and Fire Inspection Fees as Special Assessments and Ordering Collection Thereof


CA-10 (21-1709) Resolution to Approve Participating Establishments in the Main Street Social District

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.

There are no public hearings scheduled for this meeting

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 scheduled for this 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 "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 (21-1651) An Ordinance to Add Chapter 104 (Energy and Water Benchmarking) to Title VIII of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor

A new ordinance will require owners of large properties to collect and report Whole-Building Data for energy and water use, so that potential or current tenants can access consistent and relevant information about the cost of their utilities. Property owners will use a benchmarking tool such as Energy Star to create and submit reports (annually) to the City’s Office of Sustainability and Innovations (OSI). The OSI will make these benchmarking reports available on a publicly accessible website with summaries of energy and water consumption statistics, compliance rates, trends observed, etc. Properties subject to this ordinance: greater than 10,000 gross square feet (total floor area) that are owned, leased or managed by the City, and other properties greater than 20,000 gross square feet (total floor area). Exemptions: owner occupied properties, under occupied (<50% over 10 months), in foreclosure, and permitted for demolition.

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 (21-0970) Resolution to Approve Amendment to the Council Rule 7

The Council Administration Committee proposes changes to our meeting time: shifting the 7:00 PM start time earlier to 6:30 PM. Language is added to Rule 7 (Public Speaking) to reference those attending “remotely.”


DC-2 (21-1648) Resolution to Appoint Paul Krutko to the Economic Development Corporation Board (7 Votes Required)

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

  • Paul Krutko - Economic Development Corporation Board


DC-3 (21-1720) Resolution to Acknowledge and Commend Roger Rayle and the Coalition for Action on Remediation of Dioxane (CARD) for Longstanding Public Service to Monitor and Protect Residents of Ann Arbor from Exposure to Harmful Chemicals in Ann Arbor Freshwater Sources

Council would acknowledge and commend the work of Roger Rayle and the Coalition for Action on Remediation of Dioxane (CARD) for their longstanding public service of professional activism with respect to addressing 1,4-dioxane cleanup processes. This commendation will be sent to the leadership of Washtenaw County, the Washtenaw County delegation to the Michigan Legislature, the Director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, the Region Administrator - United States Environmental Protection Agency - Region V, Attorney General Dana Nessel, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell.


DC-4 (21-1705) Resolution to Approve an Agreement between the City of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County Regarding Responsibilities and Cost Allocation for Design and Engineering Services for the Bandemer-Barton Trail Connection Project

An agreement between the City of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County will allocate responsibility and cost for the design and engineering of the Bandemer-Barton Trail Connection, a pedestrian tunnel beneath the railroad tracks between Barton Nature Area and Bandemer Park. A cost sharing agreement with the County for design services will assign 45% of cost to the City and 55% of cost to the County. Construction costs would be assigned: 29% to the City, 71% to the County.

Additional thoughts…

I also published this on my website:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/thoughts-on-the-november-2021-ballot



Thoughts on the November 2021 Ballot

In the last six months, City Council voted to put a number of proposals on the November 2021 ballot. I generally support the idea of putting issues on the ballot for voters to decide. At Council, I voted in favor of all the ballot questions below, with the exception of Proposal D. Below is explanation about the proposals Council approved for this upcoming ballot:


Proposal A

Ann Arbor City Charter Amendment Related to Best Value Purchasing

Shall Section 14.3 subsection d of the Charter be amended to require the City to award contracts for supplies, materials, or public improvements, to the bidder that is deemed the best value to the City rather than the lowest responsible bidder?


Resolution approved July 20, 2021 authorizing this ballot question (Sponsors: Eyer, Radina, Taylor, Briggs, Nelson, Song, Griswold)

https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5029247&GUID=A8457608-8B5F-4812-BAEA-1DCA536C3BB0


This proposal was brought to Council by labor union advocates, to give the City more flexibility in awarding contracts. This ballot question has prompted an advertising blitz of mailers (one of which has my picture on it as an endorser) and yard signs. I appreciate the skepticism around this ballot initiative as evidence that people are approaching it thoughtfully. When numerous glossy mailers arrive at your house, it is appropriate to wonder who is funding them and why.


Current City Charter language directs us to spend the least amount of public funds necessary on contracts, requiring that the City award contracts to the “lowest responsible bidder.” The word “responsible” is vague and not well-defined but is meant to clarify the obvious: the City does not aim for the cheapest and least expensive option in every situation. Staff exercises some discretion already to make sure that all contracts are awarded to companies and organizations that can accomplish the whole of the job.


In 2020, labor union advocates pointed out that the City was awarding contracts to companies that are less likely to employ union labor and therefore less likely to do quality work. In response, Council passed an ordinance amendment to more specifically define the phrase “responsible bidder.” The changes would apply in cases where the City receives bids for construction projects in excess of $25,000. Bidders would (among other things) be required to verify appropriate licensing for all contractors and subcontractors and state what percentage of their workforce (contractors and subcontractors) resides in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw county. Bidders would also have to document pay rates/benefits, insurance coverage, references from the last five years as well as completed projects from the last five years. The whole of this ordinance would help guide our choice of contractors, so that it more directly reflects our values:

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


The current proposal for “Best value” is on the ballot due to the City’s failure to apply last year’s ordinance amendment. I have endorsed Proposal A, but I appreciate where and how it is controversial. The most significant criticism I have heard is this: The proposal offers no objectively measurable standards. What will prevent the City from simply awarding contracts to friends and politically connected people?


This was my biggest concern when I first heard the proposal. In discussion of the issue, Council talked broadly about standards and rubrics, without specifics. During the Council meeting I asked staff:

“What is the process we anticipate for building that rubric? [Is it] purely a policy question that Council is sort of cooking up or is it something that staff is likely to provide input on?”

Legal staff answered:

There are many criteria contained in the definition of “responsible bidder” currently. However, the Charter restrains us on doing a more weighted, value-based or subjective, discretionary decision making with the answers to those criteria. So some of those criteria and maybe others would be incorporated into the rubric. I would point to the current RFP [Request for Proposals] process where there is some discretion to evaluate those criteria but within the objective framework and then weight is given, which is kind of that discretionary component. That is currently how the RFP process works and that is oftentimes laid out from Council in resolutions, recommending a contract for award.

It is worth noting: in July 2020, Washtenaw County Commission adopted a similar policy for awarding contracts, which includes this explanation:


WHEREAS, Responsible Contractor Policies are not necessarily the same as “lowest responsible bidder” policies. Responsible contracting policies, or “best value” policies, seek the lowest and most responsible bid, while lowest responsible contractor policies seek the lowest bidder who is minimally qualified;


The Washtenaw County website has a page about the Responsible Contractor Policy:

https://www.washtenaw.org/3210/Responsible-Contractor-Policy


The complete July 1, 2020 Washtenaw County resolution can be found here:

https://www.washtenaw.org/DocumentCenter/View/17675/Responsible-Contractor-Policy


I recognize concerns about how Prop A will be implemented. In assessing “best value” for a contract, the City must apply a rubric that is objectively measurable. Clear standards must be the starting point, even if we ultimately use discretion in identifying (“weighting”) priorities. I am comfortable supporting this proposal because, moving forward, I expect to have influence in setting policy and monitoring how we apply it.



Proposal B

Ann Arbor City Charter Amendment Related to Ranked Choice Voting for the Election of City Officers

Shall the Charter be amended to provide that the Mayor and City Council members are to be nominated and elected by a Ranked Choice Voting method when it is authorized by State Law?


Resolution approved Aug 2, 2021 authorizing this ballot question (Sponsors: Disch, Grand, Eyer)

https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5072585&GUID=9569895D-D4C1-483F-873D-465DF948284D


This proposal is not going to have any impact in the near future because ranked choice voting (RCV) isn’t likely to be permitted under state law anytime soon. Ranked choice voting is generally considered to be a better expression of voter intent— it measures voter support for more than one candidate. Under our current system, any election with more than two candidates can potentially ‘split’ the vote by non-majority percentages. A RCV process prevents a candidate from winning with less than majority support, because voters can rank every one of the candidates. As applied directly to our local election system (i.e. candidates chosen in August primaries), RCV does not represent a significant improvement; RCV would be a significant improvement if we had nonpartisan elections, inclusive of all possible candidates competing in a November election. If the state permitted RCV, I hope by then we would have implemented nonpartisan elections as well.


In 2019, Council approved a ballot question for nonpartisan elections, so that voters could consider the issue. The Mayor vetoed that ballot question. I wrote about my support for the ballot question and the Mayor’s veto here:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/additional-thoughts-aug-8-2020-nonpartisan-election-ballot-proposal


In 2020, Council considered (and rejected) a ballot question for ranked choice voting. I wrote about my support for that ballot question and why it would be most useful in the context of nonpartisan elections:

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

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/additional-thoughts-aug-8-2020-nonpartisan-election-ballot-proposal



Proposal C

Ann Arbor City Charter Amendment Related to Emergency Procurement

Shall Section 14.2 of the Charter be amended to require City Council to establish, by ordinance, the procedure by which the City Administrator may make emergency purchases.


Resolution approved Aug 2, 2021 authorizing this ballot question (Sponsors: Eyer, Taylor, Radina)

https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5074071&GUID=AE509F69-45D8-4DC0-9124-5DA154C1816D


This is a clarification of the charter to make it consistent with necessary (current) city practice. In answer to Council questions about the need for this (examples of where/how emergency expenditures happen), staff identified the water main break that occurred this June on North Maple which required immediate repair.



Proposal D

Ann Arbor City Charter Amendment Related to the $25,000 Dollar Limit

Shall Section 14.2 of the Charter be amended to permit the City Council to delegate to the City Administrator the authority to approve purchases and to enter into contracts when the cost to the City is equal to or lesser than $75,000, to be adjustable for inflation.


Resolution approved Aug 2, 2021 authorizing this ballot question (Sponsors: Eyer, Taylor, Radina)

https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5074072&GUID=80AEF3DE-F70F-4FAD-8BFD-F9164DB467F0


Council was told that internal spending authority has not been adjusted upwards since 1995. Many expenditures appear on public agendas for City Council, e.g. in our Consent Agendas, Council often authorizes millions of dollars in spending without any discussion. A change like this means that many expenditures would not appear on public agendas; staff report that this adjustment would cut our public agendas nearly in half. That is an element of transparency that we lose when we adjust these numbers up. In the interest of transparency, I did not support putting this particular question on the ballot.



Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!

Elizabeth Nelson


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