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 short: two public hearings for ordinances (second reading), one proposed ordinance (first reading), and a resolution to create a new Renters Commission. This week’s agenda also includes the first use of a recently enacted rule to regulate and restrict our agenda.
Like many families in our community, my household includes a school-age child. Like many of you, I am receiving regular updates from AAPS about instances of exposure and risk related to COVID at our son’s school. If you are not already aware, drive-through COVID testing is available at the 2|42 Church on 648 S Wagner Road. It is a non-invasive (saliva) test and results are available within a couple days. Pre-registration is required:
Washtenaw County maintains a list of all COVID testing options:
Both of these links are on my website at A2ELNEL.com for future reference.
"Proposed" Agenda Items
This week’s Council agenda includes a section that has never appeared before: 'Proposed Items to Be Added to the Agenda'. This section was created on 5/3/21 by an amendment to Council Rules. According to the newly added rules
After 5:00 p.m. on the Thursday proceeding a regularly scheduled Council meeting, three Councilmembers would need to co-sponsor an item to add to the agenda before the start of a meeting. After 5:00 p.m. on the Thursday proceeding a regularly scheduled meeting, an individual Councilmember can add a proposed item for the agenda, but a majority of the Council would have to vote to add an item to agenda at the Council meeting. However, if an item is proposed to be added at the Council meeting in this manner, the proposed resolution would be publicly available on the agenda in a section entitled proposed items to be added to the agenda.
Of note: before recent amendments, Council Rules governing members’ access to the public agenda (and adding items for public discussion at our meetings) read:
Councilmembers may add items to the agenda at any time but will use best efforts to do so prior to 5:00 p.m. on the Tuesday before the next Council meeting.
For reference, the latest version of Council Rules are on the City's website here:
When first proposed, these rules seemed aimed strictly at timing: making it harder to add agenda items later rather than earlier. Theoretically, confirming our agendas earlier would make public meetings more transparent, with more public notice rather than less. However, this appears to have been only the first step in a larger scheme. Members of the Administration committee are now working on yet more rules to wholly prevent items from being placed on our public agendas (regardless of timing). I am told that there are specific proposals for public agenda “gatekeeping” by unelected staff and unelected boards and commissions. I will provide updates as I learn more.
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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.
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:
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
Sunday Sept 19th 3:00pm
I hold coffee hours Sunday afternoons at 3pm before City Council meetings. Now that Industrial Highway is open in both directions, I am returning to RoosRoast at 1155 Rosewood. We will be outdoors on the lawn.
If you can, please bring a chair - RoosRoast has very limited outdoor seating for customers and they prefer that our meeting not occupy it!
City Council Regular Meeting
Monday Sept 20th 7:00pm
My summary of the meeting agenda is posted below in this newsletter.
EDIT: The Legistar link for the meeting was republished by the City on Sept 20th:
City Council Special Work Session
Tuesday Sept 21st 4:00pm
This is a Council work session to interview two candidates for Interim City Administrator.
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 7, 2021
City Council Voting Chart for Sept 13, 2021
This was a Special Session to decide next steps in the search for an Interim City Administrator.
Bicycle Friendly Community Fall 2021 Survey Now Open The City of Ann Arbor has applied to renew it's Bicycle Friendly Community status with the League of American Bicyclists. Part of the review is hearing from those who cycle in Ann Arbor. https://www.a2elnel.com/post/bicycle-friendly-community-fall-2021-survey-now-open
Churchill Downs Park Stormwater Basin Update Sept 17 2021 An update on the Churchill Downs Park Stormwater Basin project from the Chief Deputy of Washtenaw County Water Resources. https://www.a2elnel.com/post/churchill-downs-park-stormwater-basin-update-sept-17-2021
Football Game Day Street Closures and Parking Restrictions Today is the third of seven planned University of Michigan football home games. The City has enacted street closures and parking restrictions near the stadium on game days. https://www.a2elnel.com/post/football-game-day-street-closures-and-parking-restrictions
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.
Council Meeting Agenda 9/20/21
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:
EDIT: The Legistar link for the meeting was republished by the City on Sept 20th:
Ann Arbor City Council Monday Sept 20th (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
Proposed Items to Be Added to the Agenda
Items added to the Agenda after 5:00PM on the Thursday preceding a regularly scheduled Council meeting require three Council members as co-sponsors. Without three co-sponsors, an individual Council member may add an item to this "proposed" section, which then requires a majority vote at the beginning of the Council meeting to officially add the item to the agenda.
(21-1686) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 112 of Title VI (Police Regulations) of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor
CM Griswold brings this ordinance amendment in order to address the problem of “drive-through” services that require use of a motor vehicle. Her proposed amendment would be incorporated into our Non-Discrimination ordinance, adding this language: Discrimination also includes the denial of services at a drive-through facility based on mode of transportation, including pedestrian access or the use of a personal mobility vehicle.
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 (21-1655) Agenda Response Memo and eComments - September 20, 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) Nominations and Appointments for September 20, 2021
This appointment from the Mayor is being presented at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting.
Larry Eiler - Economic Development Corporation Board
MC-2 (21-1648) Resolution to Appoint Paul Krutko to the Economic Development Corporation Board (7 Votes Required)
This appointment from the Mayor is being presented at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next 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
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 (21-1442) Resolution to Approve a Professional Services Agreement with DLZ Michigan, Inc. for Engineering Design Services for the E. Medical Center Drive Bridge Rehabilitation and Widening Project ($1,011,319.29) (RFP 21-20)
CA-2 (21-1572) Resolution to Approve a Contribution Agreement with Traver Lakes Community Maintenance Association Regarding the Replacement of a Sidewalk on Traver Boulevard between Lakehurst Lane and Nixon Road ($56,000.00)
CA-3 (21-1026) Resolution to Appropriate the Downtown Development Authority’s Contribution to the Streetlight Replacement and Painting Project ($150,000.00) (8 Votes Required)
CA-4 (21-1050) Resolution to Approve a Professional Services Agreement with Davey Resource Group, Inc. for the 2021 Urban & Community Forest Management Plan Update ($113,000.00) and to Appropriate the General Fund Project Share ($11,300.00) (8 Votes Required)
CA-5 (21-1599) Resolution to Approve a Grant Application to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Grants Management for the Acquisition of Land and Site Improvements Along the Huron River at 841 Broadway Street for Up to 5 Million Dollars
CA-6 (21-1565) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of a John Deere Wheel Loader from AIS Construction Equipment Corp. (MiDeal - $244,208.89)
CA-7 (21-1563) Resolution to Amend the Fleet and Facility Unit FY 2022 Budget by Appropriating Funds in the Amount of $152,500.00 and to Authorize the Purchase of a 2022 Mini Walk Around Rescue Apparatus from Spencer Manufacturing Inc. (Pennsylvania COSTARS Purchasing Agreement - $145,096.00) (8 Votes Required)
CA-8 (21-1596) Resolution to Approve Holdover of the Current Lease and Authorize a New Lease of the Old Fire Station to the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum (8 Votes Required)
CA-9 (21-1537) Resolution to Approve Street Closings for the Ann Arbor Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot - Thursday, November 25, 2021
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 (21-1258) An Ordinance to Add Sections 10:147 and to Amend Sections 10:1c, 10:90, 10:97, 10:146, and 10:149 of Chapter 126 (Traffic) of Title X of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Personal Mobility Vehicle) (ORD-21-27)
New ordinances would regulate the operation of “personal mobility devices” (e-scooters, bicycles, e-bikes, and skateboards) in the City of Ann Arbor. In the roadway, these devices will have the same rights and duties as motorists. On sidewalks and at crosswalks, they must yield to pedestrians. Such devices should be parked in the manner that would be legal for a bicycle and they may also be parked on a highway or street where parking is allowed for motor vehicles. Personal mobility devices can be seized and impounded by the city.
PH-2/B-2 (21-1512) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 107 (Animals) of Title IX (Police Regulations) of the Ann Arbor City Code (ORD-21-28)
Violation of any city ordinance related to animals - birds, bees, chickens, ducks, dogs and other animals— will be subject to a fine of no more than $500. Violation of city ordinances related to poisoning animals, harming wild birds or their occupied nests, trapping animals, and owning a vicious dog shall be misdemeanors, subject to a fine (no more than $500) or imprisonment of not more than 90 days, or both.
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 (21-1258)is the same as PH-1 above.
B-2 (21-1512) is the same as PH-2 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 (21-1496) An Ordinance to Amend Section 5.15.2 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of Code of The City of Ann Arbor - (Remove Warehousing and Indoor Storage in C2B Districts)
Amendment to use tables in the Unified Development Code (UDC) will remove “warehousing and indoor storage” as a permitted use in the C2B Business Service District. The majority of other permitted uses in the district are suitable to be accessed by either automobiles or pedestrians, but Warehousing and Indoor Storage are most likely to be primarily automobile oriented.
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 (21-1485) Resolution Appointing Members to the Hayden House Historic District Study Committee
These Mayoral appoints are to the Hayden House Historic District Study Committee. This committee was established by Council resolution on Aug 2, 2021.
DC-2 (21-1649) Resolution to Create the Ann Arbor Renters Commission
A Renters Commission will be appointed by the Mayor and be “representative of various renter perspectives in the City, such as student, youth, low-income, LGBTQ, immigrant, persons with criminal records, persons receiving rental subsidies, cooperative or group housing, tenant advocacy groups, persons who have experienced homelessness, or historically underrepresented groups.” The eleven members will include one attorney with experience representing renters or advocating for renters’ interests and no more than two (nonvoting) members who are representative of different landlord perspectives in the City. The Ann Arbor Housing and Human Services Advisory Board may appoint nonvoting liaison to the commission. The Renters Commission will “advise the City Council and City Administrator on matters affecting renters in the City.”
I also published this on my website:
Next Steps: Interim City Administrator
On September 13th, Council met for a Special Session to discuss next steps in hiring an external candidate as a temporary Interim City Administrator.
This Special Session was added to the Council calendar too late for me to include in the last Council Newsletter that I publish on my website. This meeting was called in order for Council to consider the Council Administration Committee’s recommendation of two candidates:
Peter Burchard, whose relevant job experience includes past employment as the City Manager of Naperville, Illinois and Village Manager of Hoffman Estates, Illinois. His complete resume can be found here: https://a2gov.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=9802686&GUID=E71DD8E3-414F-4224-968C-EAB2E67FE9C4
Milton Dohoney, whose relevant job experience includes past employment as the City Manager of Cincinnati, Ohio and Assistant City manager of Phoenix, Arizona. His complete resume can be found here: https://a2gov.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=9802687&GUID=7012E7F1-F96D-4536-A942-5CA82D3FCC95
Mayor Taylor chairs the Council Administration Committee that chose these two candidates and unanimously recommended the resolution on the agenda of our Special Session. However, at the beginning of our meeting, Mayor Taylor shared two of his own amendments to that resolution: first, that only one candidate (rather than two) be considered for the position and second, that “staff input” be incorporated in the process of review. The first amendment (reducing the number of candidates) was never formally moved for discussion, but it was referenced in light of the second amendment (staff input), which was discussed and eventually approved. The two amendments in combination raised serious red flags for me when I heard the following remarks from my colleagues:
“I am interested in hearing staff feedback regardless of the number of candidates. Whether or not it’s a comparative process. I think, frankly, it could be a comparative process where neither candidate moves forward.”
“I also am interested in getting staff’s feedback in terms of bringing in an external candidate as well. I think that it is challenging. There are aspects of bringing in an external candidate interim City Administrator that are… it is work for staff, as well, and so I am curious to, within this process, also get some feedback from them about just that component as well.”
Our City Charter defines the City Administrator as very clearly one of only two staff positions under the direct control of Council:
SECTION 12.1 (b) The appointive officers shall be the City Administrator and the Attorney, who shall be appointed by the Council
The ideas expressed by my colleagues would be a totally novel approach, contrary to our City Charter: City staff would be empowered to reject one, two, or any number of candidates approved by Council for the role of Interim City Administrator. At least one of my colleagues is interested in allowing staff to reject the whole “component” of an external candidate, despite the fact that Council unanimously agreed that an external candidate was needed.
One of my colleagues clarified his remarks to say:
“Just because one or two may or may not be a fit, does not necessarily mean this would be the end of the process. It does not mean that if we do not select one of these people that the search is over and the status quo remains. It simply means that we might have to look elsewhere.”
In actual fact, an iterative process considering one candidate at a time - a process that includes staff “veto” - would very much preserve the “status quo” and extend the period of time when our City lacks experienced and qualified leadership.
To understand the current “status quo” (and why it is worrisome), note a timeline of recent events:
City Council votes to conclude the employment of City Administrator Tom Crawford, based on anonymous complaints from five members of staff.
City Council approves a separation agreement with Tom Crawford.
City Council unanimously approves a plan to search for an external candidate to act as Interim City Administrator for a period of approximately one year. John Fournier is approved as temporary Acting City Administrator until September 20, 2021.
Acting City Administrator John Fournier announces $200,000 in salary increases to high level City Staff, explaining that he asked for the Director of Human Resources to consider these raises “the day after I was appointed to serve as the Acting City Administrator.” MLive story about staff raises (Sept 1, 2021): https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/2021/09/acting-ann-arbor-administrator-plans-to-give-staff-200k-in-raises.html
Note that the Director of Human Resources - hired eight months ago - was among those staff receiving a salary increase. MLive story about HR director hiring (Feb 1, 2021): https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/2021/02/two-years-after-text-scandal-ann-arbor-finally-hires-new-hr-leader-for-city-hall.html
Acting City Administrator John Fournier sends a directive to City Council on “Interactions with City Staff” that includes these orders:
“Service requests, such as potholes, water main breaks, traffic control issues, etc, should be registered in A2 Fix It rather than emailed directly to staff. If the service request is urgent, please contact the City Administrator’s Office or me directly”
“Council Members should not be working directly with staff on resolutions, or making requests directly of staff members to work on a resolution, without first contacting the City Administrator and the City Administrator making specific staff available to the Council members as needed.”
Acting City Administrator John Fournier explains in a public meeting that
“[R]esolutions, I think, should maybe be focused on topics and values and less on directing the administrator specifically on how to get the work done.”
City Council approves two candidates for interview and assessment for the job of Interim City Administrator. This resolution was amended at the table to add input from staff, as well as add explanation that the Acting City Administrator and the City’s Director of Human Resources will help oversee the evaluation process.
The Council Administration committee developed and recommended a plan - the hiring of an external candidate for Interim City Administrator for approximately one year - to meet the immediate need for a qualified professional in the office of City Administrator. On August 16, 2021, City Council unanimously approved the posting of this job and the need for an external candidate. I voted in support of an external transition candidate for one very important reason: I believe there is no appropriate and qualified internal candidate to serve as an Interim City Administrator while we search for a new one.
City Council’s ability to advocate on behalf of residents - both in terms of broad policy and in specific instances of neighborhood problems - has already been compromised significantly in just the last month. With the departure of Tom Crawford, our city lost a strong advocate for both fiscal responsibility and collaborative problem-solving with and on behalf of residents.
In light of many enormous decisions in the immediate future - the largest of which is likely to be prioritizing use of federal stimulus money - we need a qualified City Administrator sooner rather than later. Indirect efforts to delay or disable this process are not in the best interests of the City. Our community should be very concerned about any proposal allowing staff to essentially ‘veto’ the unanimous vote of Council or delay the installment of a qualified City Administrator. City Council cannot evade its responsibility under the City Charter.
I look forward to interviewing both candidates at the Special Work Session scheduled for Tuesday, Sept 21st.
Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!
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