Wednesday, March 14, 2018

News in Brief: The kids are alright

This morning several hundred people showed up to protest gun violence at Ypsilanti's Riverside Park as part of the National School Walkout. The crows was made up of mostly high school students, as well as parents, teachers and community members from across the county. I showed up a little late so my pics are not great. Still, it was inspiring to see some many people braving the cold to support a cause they believe in.

The crowd immediately after the rally ended

Participants head out of Riverside Park on Ypsilanti's iconic Tridge after the rally in Riverside Park.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Wasntenaw County neighborhood profiles

Change in property value in Ypsilanti's Historic Southside neighborhood between 2005 and 2017

Washtenaw County's Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) subcommittee has just released a report looking at how 12 Washtenaw County have changed over time. One of the biggest trends in the report is that State Equalized Values (SEV is approximately 1/2 market value) in 2017 are lower than SEVs in 2005 in all neighborhoods except for Ann Arbor's Water Hill. In two other neighborhoods, Ann Arbor's Packard & Platt neighborhood and Pittsfield Township's Carpenter & Packard, SEV is almost the same in 2017 as it was in 2005.

The report also looks at racial and employment demographics in neighborhoods over time. One of the trends that stands out in the demographics is the decrease in the percentage of African American or Black residents in the three Ann Arbor neighborhoods. In the majority of the 12 neighborhoods, there has been a shift from owner occupied homes to rental houses. There's a lot to digest in this report.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Ypsilanti City Council Preview: March 6th, 2018

A presentation about Washtenaw County's solid waste plan is one highlight on tonight's agenda.

Tonight is the first #YpsiCouncil meeting of March. You can check out the agenda here. There will be three important presentations at the meeting. Evan Pratt will be talking about the County's solid waste plan. AAATA Board Member Gillian Ream Gainsley will be presenting about the upcoming AAATA transit millage renewal. You can get a sneak peek at these presentations in this March 6th Council Packet. The solid waste plan starts on page 3 and the AAATA presentation starts on page 32.

Probably the most exciting item on the agenda is a discussion about a potential Community Benefits Ordinance, or CBO. A CBO would formalize the process for negotiating concessions that would benefit Ypsilanti with potential developers. A local group, Rising for Economic Democracy, Ypsilanti, or REDY has been working on developing CBO language. You can read more about REDY and their vision for a CBO in this recent article from Concentrate. I know a lot of people from REDY and citizens who support a strong CBO are planning on speaking at tonight's public commentary. There is some conflict between REDY's vision for a CBO and the proposed CBO that is being presented tonight. Here's an except from an email sent by a member of REDY obtained by Damn Arbor:

Tonight at City Hall the city council is going to discuss the Community Benefits Ordinance drafted by the city. As currently designed it sets up a city appointed ad hoc committee that makes recommendations to the city who then negotiates with the developer. By contrast [in REDY's] CBO framework an ad hoc committee, the majority chosen by the community, directly negotiates with a developer and reports back to a mass meeting of the community. Under the city’s draft there is no open meeting of the community.
Finally there is one last item that caught my interest on tonight's agenda. EMU is working on privatizing their parking services, and tonight, the Ypsilanti City Council is voting on a resolution to support EMU. To be honest, the whole thing seems a little convoluted and I don't know as much about it as I should. Mark Maynard has closer look at this agenda item over on his site.

You can follow the action live on the Ypsi Live facebook page.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Ann Arbor City Council Preview for March 5th, 2018

Braun Nature Area is on a township island. If C-1 passes, the parcels that make up the nature area will be annexed into the city and rezoned as Public Land.

UPDATE: This article was updated to include information about the use of masculine pronouns in the disorderly conduct ordinance.

Gentle readers, tonight is the first #a2council meeting of March. Are you excited? Tonight's meeting is hot on the heels of the February 19th City Council Meeting where Ann Arbor's courageous elected officials drew a bold line in the sand and voted to forbid front yard solar panels*. Everyone is wondering whether the council will take another brave, and not at all retrograde, stand against the forces of modernity.

Snarking aside, there are some important items on tonight's agenda. The Consent Agenda tonight is 20 items deep. It starts with 7 road closures for everything from the Monroe Street Fair (Saturday, April 7) to the Burns Park Fun Run (Sunday, May 6), and the 10th Annual Box Car Race/Soap Box Derby (Sunday, April 8). Other items on the Consent Agenda include relocation of voting precincts because of ongoing construction at the Michigan Union and a couple of easement approvals. There are also several purchase agreements in the CA items, including a quarter million dollar agreement with Yellowfin Business Intelligence for two years of data visualization and big data services.

There are two second readings of ordinance changes on tonight's agenda that have public hearings. PH-1/B-1, An Ordinance to Amend Section 9:61, 9:62 and 9:68 of Chapter 108, Disorderly Conduct, of Title IX of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Ordinance No. ORD-18-03), makes several updates to Ann Arbor's disorderly conduct ordinance. Among other things, the changes would strike language from the section of the ordinance that make it so that domestic violence rules do not apply between parents/guardians and their minor children. Interestingly this update to the disorderly conduct ordnance leaves in this language about the usage of masculine pronouns within the ordinance: "(4) 'Masculine pronouns”: Shall be construed to include both male and female persons.'" Seems like an interesting choice.

B-2/PH-2, An Ordinance to Amend Sections 10:69, 10:70, 10:71, 10:72, 10:73 and 10:75 of Chapter 126, Traffic, of Title X of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Ordinance No. ORD-18-04), makes some changes to the City's rules around parking meters. I haven't given this a close reading, but it looks like it updates the rules surrounding parking meters to reflect the use of the electronic marking meter system.

The last item on the agenda that I'll mention is C-1, An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Zoning), Zoning of 10.44 Acres from TWP (Township District) to PL (Public Land), 1200 and 1400 Chalmers Drive. This ordinance would annex the two parcels of land that make up the Braun Nature Area and zone them as Public Land. Braun Nature area is currently an Ann Arbor City Park that is located on Ann Arbor Township land.

Gentle reader, what items on tonight's #a2council agenda are you most excited about? Make sure you tune in tonight at 7 to watch CTN's live stream. Make sure you check out the blow-by-blow action on #a2council hashtag on Twitter.

* Ward 5 Councilmembers Chip Smith and Chuck Warpehoski voted against the ban on front yard solar panels. Ward 3 Councilmember Julie Grand was absent from the Feb. 19th meeting and thus did not vote for or against the front yard solar panel ban.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Local man wounded fighting Syria

The Chicago Tribune has a fascinating article about 23 year-old Pioneer grad, Caleb Stevens, who received medical care in Chicago recently after being wounded in Syria. Caleb was fighting as a volunteer with the Kurdish YPG Militia Deir ez-Zor, Syria. Stevens was shot in the calf by a sniper while trying to retrieve a rifle. He was initially treated in a hospital in Baghdad, followed by a hospital in Jordan, before he flew to Chicago O'Hare and eventually received treatment at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Stevens is currently recuperating at his home in Ann Arbor.

The Trib's article goes into great depth on Stevens' story and the phenomenon of international volunteers in the YPG. It's well worth your read.

Caleb I realize you have probably had a lot of media attention, but if this ends up finding its way to you, and you'd be interested in an interview with a local publication, drop me a line ben.connorbarrie @

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

ABCs of Affordability on Concentrate

Gentle readers, I just wrote my second article for awesome local publication, Concentrate. The ABCs of affordability in Washtenaw County looks at some of the terms and concepts surrounding discussions of affordable housing as well as some examples in Washtenaw County. I hope that we are going to start to look at affordability and equity as a community more in the coming months. If you, gentle reader, are starting your own journey in affordable housing, I hope this article is a useful and informative starting point.

Stay tuned for more articles on housing and affordability.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Ann Arbor City Council Meeting PREVIEW

'sup in the ARB? While my friend Ben is off traveling the globe, I sit on my couch and anxiously await the next Ann Arbor City Council meeting! As one does.

Because today is a holiday, the meeting will take place tomorrow (Tuesday, February 20) at 7pm. But oh look at the good stuff that awaits you!

1) Update on Council Resolution Resolutions: I thought this sounded cute. A resolution on resolutions! It's actually quite serious and details recommendations regarding "various safety related items in the vicinity of Huron High School, implementation of Vision Zero, evaluation of crosswalks, lane conversions, and speed reduction."

2) A very large Consent Agenda: Items on a consent agenda are things that everyone agrees to and so rather than voting on them individually, a group will just approve the whole thing in one fell swoop. Every now and again a councilmember will remove something from the Consent Agenda and then it will be discussed and voted upon separately. This batch looks at everything from closing the streets for the Mayor's Green Fair on June 8 (my last day of school! holla!) to accepting a Quitclaim Deed from Pittsfield Charter Township for a parcel on Packard to approving a services agreement with Magic Finish for custodial and event services at Cobblestone Farm (that's where I got married! It was quite clean!) to a resolution to prohibit on-street parking on the South Side of Pauline Boulevard from S. Seventh Street to Redeemer Avenue. Sixteen things in all! Whew!

3) Public Hearings on the topics of solar energy systems and fee adjustments for liveries!

4) Revisions to the Disorderly Conduct ordinance

5) Appointments and Resignations. I am on there, resigning from the Disabilities Commission. I feel sad about that but I can't make the meetings that start at 3:15.

The entire agenda can be found here but do check back for updates as tomorrow is when people can call up to request time to speak. Happy Council Viewing!!! #a2council4lyfe

Thursday, February 15, 2018


It isn’t often that I ponder the meaning of life after seeing a play. I mean, sure, seeing Grease made me think about high school and seeing Annie made me glad I’m not an orphan but I generally don’t rack my brain as I attempt to figure out the universe and our role in it.

But Theater Nova’s Constellations made me do exactly that. As soon as the actors took their bows my brain started whirring about, putting pieces together to make things fit. And know that there are a lot of pieces to fit together in this charming, heartbreaking, soul wrenching, wonderful 70 minutes of art.

Constellations begins at a barbecue where beekeeper Roland meets academic Marianne who we soon learn works in “theoretical early universe cosmology”. See now right there my brain would normally just shut down. My weakest subject in school was science, I took Biology 101 at a community college so I wouldn’t mess up my GPA, and I even avoid “physics at the pub” type events. But the Marianne character explained quantum mechanics and theoretic physics in such a way that even if I still don’t fully understand the ideas, I could at least follow along.

The main idea behind Constellations is that everything we ever do, or never do, spins off into an infinite and unimaginable number of possible universes. You met that cute guy at the barbecue but he was married? That’s a universe. You cheat on that cute guy that you met at the barbecue? Another universe. You meet the cute guy at a dance class that you are taking in preparation for your upcoming wedding? Yet another universe.

And here is how those universes look: Roland and Marianne move in together and one of them cheats on the other, or doesn’t. Roland and Marianne meet up at a dance class which may be for one of their upcoming weddings, or it isn’t. Roland and Marianne get back together and she is diagnosed with glioblastoma and gets a clean bill of health, or doesn’t. Marianne makes the decision to end her life, or she doesn’t.

But something is inevitable in any universe and that is the love between these two characters. The love may never get beyond the barbecue, or the infidelity, or the dance class but it is there. This is the thread that carries the audience through the play. Helped along by clever lighting changes, outstanding directing and amazing acting, Constellations hits all the right stars in the galaxy.

Your last chance to see this lovely play is this weekend: Thursday at 8pm, Friday at 8pm, Friday at 8pm, or Sunday at 2pm. All performances take place at the Yellow Barn at 410 West Huron Street.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Ypsilanti City Council Preview: Feb. 6 2018

To night is the first #YpsiCouncil meeting of February. The meeting is agenda looks light with no public hearings. One of the most interesting agenda items is No. 2018-021, approving Ordinance No. 1301. This is on the consent agenda and is the second reading of an ordinance that would rezone the parcel at 218 N Adams as a Planned Unit Development. The building is currently the home of First Congregational church. Reading the meeting packet (page 37) the plan is that Save Old Buildings, LLC a company owned by Ypsilantian Steve Pierce, will turn the building into a performance and events space. Seems like an interesting project.

Elsewhere on the agenda there is a resolution approving council goals as well as a discussion public safety staffing. The meeting will be live streamed by Ypsi Live. So if you want to fallow along from home all you need to do is join the Ypsi Live facebook group.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: Feb. 5th 2018

Gentle readers, this evening's #a2concil meeting is heavy on the consent agenda and light on pretty much everything else. There are 25 items on the consent agenda covering everything from road closures to vehicle purchases and environmental services contracts. There's one public hearing on the site plan for the Rainbow Childcare Center at 2600 Nixon. This item comes to council with a unanimous recommendation from the planning commission but has been postponed twice. There are two official petitions regarding the site plan that have been filed with council. The first has 14 signatures and states that it is against the site plan citing traffic concerns, noise and privacy concerns, the number of students (130), and concerns that the site plan is "out of character" with the neighborhood. The second petition also has 14 signatures and asks the site plan be adjusted. The second petition also cites concerns with traffic, noise and privacy, and the number of students (130). It adds concerns about the proposed height of the buildings, loss of green space and reduced property values.

There's also a resolution, DC-2, which would create an "Advisory Task Force to Make Recommendations Regarding the Roles and Responsibilities of a Community Policing Commission." It will be interesting to see how this item progresses and how shapes a future Community Policing Commission.

So gentle readers, is there anything in particular you're excited to see at #a2council tonight? Remember you can watch the live stream on CTN and YouTube. And as always, you can get a blow by blow of the action using the #a2council hashtag on twitter.