Thursday, December 14, 2017

Hyatt Place Ann Arbor, A review

EJ enjoying the cozy little living room section of our hotel room. It's hard to beat a sectional couch.

From time to time, if you run a local website, you will be offered the opportunity to review things: restaurants, plays, and sometimes brand new hotels. In October of this year, EJ and I had the opportunity to review Ann Arbor's newest hotel, the Hyatt off south State Street. In full disclosure, we received our room for free as well as a $25 voucher to use in the restaurant and bar in the Hotel.

There is something strange about staying in a hotel in your own city. I remember we did it once when I was a child. My family stayed at Weber's for a few days in elementary school one winter when my brother, sister, and I were all stricken with lice. There are of course non-lice related reasons a local might stay at a local hotel. EJ and I stayed at one after our wedding so we could be closer to guests. Also, local hotels can be useful when your heat goes out in the winter, or if you want to carry on an affair away from the prying eyes of the public.

Hyatt Place Ann Arbor is a nice hotel. It is brand new so everything felt clean and fresh. In the lobby area there was a cozy little sitting area lined with tall bookshelves stacked with antique books. It was a great spot to curl up and read or just people watch. EJ and I had a room on the 4th floor that had a king-sized bed and a nice little sitting area. The furnishings were comfortable. Also there were plenty of places to charge our various electronic devices.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Sledding hills

Gentle reader, I'm sure you've noticed that we are getting some snow today. That must mean you have sledding on your mind. My personal favorite sledding spot is Huron Hills Golf Course. It is steep and has a great long run. I know people also love the hills at Vets Park and Hunt Park. In Ypsilanti, Riverside Park and Ypsi High are also very popular.

Gentle reader, what are your favorite sledding hills? Here's a from the Damn Arbor archives with more information on sledding. Note: This article was first published on Dec. 27th, 2012.

Look out your window. We've got some snow. It's the holidays so you really have no excuse not to go sledding. With that in mind, I am posting some links to some classic articles about sledding in Ann Arbor:

Guide to Ann Arbor: Sled-DANG! In A2 from Damn Arbor's very own Quinn Davis

Sledding on Arborwiki

Guide to the Ann Arbor area's best sledding hills by Ed Vielmetti

I will add this: Huron Hills is probably my favorite sledding spot in the city (see this article on the Chronicle). The Arb is pretty sweet for sledding too. But the frozen hummocks of grass kind of hurt your bum as your sled there. And it's borderline illegal. But really it doesn't matter where you sled, as long as you get out and enjoy yourself.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Public commentary as performance art

A YouTuber who goes by the name, Chad Kroeger (No, not that Chad Kroeger) has posted a series of videos taken from public commentary from public meetings in the greater Los Angeles area. Above you will see an impassioned plea against a potential ban on house parties in the Hollywood Hills. Interesting note, public commentary at LA City Council meetings is only one minute. Pretty harsh. Below you can see Chad and his buddy JT making a plea for a Paul Walker memorial sculpture to the San Clemente City Council. Note: his prop game is great.

Gentle readers, what do you think about this use of public commentary? On one hand, it may not be the best use of public official's time. On the other hand, it certainly adds some levity to public meetings.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Scorekeepers, the most popular Uber destination in Michigan

Uber has just released their 2017 list of most popular destinations in each state. In most states, the most popular destination is some sort of sports stadium. E.g. Ohio's most popular Uber destination is Progressive Field in Cleveland. Michigan's most popular Uber destination is none other than local watering hole, Scorekeepers. Popular college town bar is the second largest category in Uper's 2017 rankings. Still, I'm a little surprised that Skeeps beats out the popular Detroit stadia for Uber traffic.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Holiday gift idea: Ann(e) Arbor perfume

Gentle reader, there is an Etsy Shop in France that is selling what appears to be a half empty bottle of Anne Arbor perfume. Even stranger, the price is listed as $7.34. Is someone trying to send us a message? Is this just a giant cosmic coincidence? I have so many questions. What is Anne Arbor perfume? Does it smell like Ann Arbor? What does the essence of Ann Arbor smell like?

Gentle reader, do you have a difficult-to-shop-for Ann Arborite on your shopping list? Why not buy them the ultimate gift? A half empty bottle of Anne Arbor perfume. It can be yours for just $7.34(!) plus $7.71 shipping and handling. Seriously, if somebody does buy it, please let us know what it smells like.

An interview with Richard Retyi on the occasion of the publication of the publication of his first book

Damn Arbor alum Rich Retyi has just published his first book, The Book of Ann Arbor: An Extremely Serious History Book. He will be discussing the book tomorrow night at Literati Bookstore at 7 pm. The Book of Ann Arbor compiles many of the historical stories you may have heard on Rich's podcast, Ann Arbor Stories.

This afternoon, Rich and I sat down at our respective computers to discuss his book over email.

Ben Connor Barrie: What is your favorite story in the book?

Rich Retyi: he saddest is It's Lovely to Die Together. The most messed up are Ann Arbor Cages Public Animal #1 or The Torch Murders. The grossest is A Brief History of Poop. The historicaliest is Dirty Rotten Founders. But Ben, my favorite is obviously the Dam Arbor chapter!

BCB: What was the best part about writing the book?

RR: Nothing. It fucking sucks to write a book. That's not exactly true. Going down 41 rabbit holes to write these stories—reading all these old newspaper articles and looking through old photos from the Ann Arbor District Library's archives—that's a lot of fun. But deadlines and editors who hit me and did I mention deadlines? I also feel really weird signing my book because that feels super pretentious. Wait, your question was what did you hate about writing this book, right?

BCB: Is your book the best local holiday gift for the 2017 season?

RR: No. It's the third best holiday gift for the 2017 season. The first best would be John Bacon's book about when the town of Halifax blew up. The second would be a t-shirt from The Bar at Braun Court. THEN Book of Ann Arbor.

The Book of Ann Arbor: An Extremely Serious History Book, published by Fifth Avenue Press, is available at Nicola's Books, Literati, Rock, Paper, Scissors, and Amazon.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Ypsilanti City Council Preview

December's first Ypsilanti City Council Meeting is tomorrow night at Ypsilanti City Hall at 7 pm. The most exciting item on the agenda is a presentation of the 164 page 2017 Annual Financial Report. I've only skimmed the report, but here are some of the highlights: property tax revenue is up about $157,017 or 1.5% to $10,582,364; total revenue is down from $24,375,260 to $19,072,294; and total expense are down from $22,865,869 to $20,848,429.

Another interesting item is Resolution No. 2017-282, which would enter into an agreement with the Huron River Watershed Council to manage a study examining the feasibility of removing the old Peninsular Paper Co. Dam and restoring the riparian ecosystem there. There will also be presentations on the the snow removal plan for winter 2017-2018 and the plans for the large parcel at 800 Lowell (pictured below).

Citizen Streamers have streamed been streamed several recent public meeting in Ypsilanti via Facebook Live. I haven't been able to confirm whether anybody will be streaming the Dec. 5th #YpsiCouncil meeting. If I do hear anything, I'll update this article.

UPDATE: Ypsi Live will be streaming tomorrow night's meeting.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

#a2council preview

The site of the proposed Lower Town development outlined in red. Three of tomorrow night's 7 public hearings are on the various aspects of the Lower Town development.

Tomorrow is the first Ann Arbor City Council meeting of December. The agenda includes seven total public hearing. You can check out the agenda here. Three are about the Lower Town development at 1140 Broadway. The first is on the proposal to rezone the parcel. The second is on landscape modification for the project. The final one is on the brownfield plan for the site. Three of the remaining public hearings have to do with annexing township parcels. The final public hearing is on an amendment to the city's medical marijuana zoning rules. Of the public hearings, I anticipate the ones regarding the Lower Town development will have the most speakers.

On the consent agenda two of the items relate to sidewalk easements. There is also CA-10, which is an emergency purchase order for replacement elevator belts for the City Hall elevators. Yikes. Hope those elevators are safe.

Gentle reader, what are you most excited for in tomorrow's City Council Agenda? Also, what do you think about the Lower Town Development?

Monday, November 20, 2017

#a2council preview

The borders of the Lower Town parcel from Washtenaw County's GIS system

Gentle readers, there is an Ann Arbor City Council meeting tonight. You can see the agenda here. Tonight's meeting could be long--there are 4 public hearings scheduled. Three of the public hearings are on the Lower Town development at 1140 Broadway. The other is on the Weber Site Plan. The Weber Parcel, at 2857 Packard, is 7.66 acres of largely undeveloped land. The proposal is coming from the planning commission with unanimous disapproval. As always you can follow all the #a2council action live on twitter.

Gentle readers, what are you most interested in seeing at tonight's Ann Arbor City Council Meeting?

Monday, November 6, 2017

Vote tomorrow

Gentle readers, if you are registered to vote in Ann Arbor, tomorrow is your last chance to vote in an odd-year city council election. You wouldn't want to miss that. Also, unlike most years, there are contested races in a majority of wards. Here's a summary of the contested races linking to Ann Arbor Votes excellent candidate profiles.

In Ward 2, Democratic candidate Jared Hoffert is challenging incumbent Jane Lumm, an independent.

In Ward 4, independent candidate Diane Giannola is challenging incumbent Jack Eaton, a Democrat.

In Ward 5, independent candidate Ali Ramlawi is challenging incumbent Chip Smith, a Democrat.

In the lifespan of this blog, Jane Lumm has been the only successful independent candidate. It will be interesting tomorrow to see if the independent challengers will be able to unseat the incumbent Democrats in Wards 4 and 5. Also, though they are both democrats, CM Eaton and CM Smith are on different factions in the City Council. I'm curious to see if the independent challengers will have more traction against Eaton or Smith.

There are also two countywide ballot proposals. One for a renewal of the Washtenaw County Intermediate School District Special Education Millage. The other is for the somewhat confusing Washtenaw County Public Safety & Mental Health Services Millage. From Ann Arbor Votes:

Anyone who owns property in Washtenaw County would pay the new tax. It would be levied at 1 mill for eight years, starting in December 2018. It would raise an estimated $15 million in its first year.

The proceeds would be distributed in three ways:

Thirty-eight percent (38%) would go to the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office, led by Sheriff Jerry Clayton, for public safety services.

Thirty-eight percent (38%) would go to the Washtenaw County Community Mental Health Department. They provide services for the mentally ill.

Twenty-four percent (24%) would be divided among communities that have local police forces, including the cities of Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Milan, Saline and Ypsilanti, as well as in Pittsfield Township and Northfield Township.

For the 24% divided among municipalities with their own police forces, there are no restrictions on how that money is spent. That is, the proposal does not stipulate that those communities must spend the tax revenues on public safety or mental health services.

Gentle readers, take some time this evening to plan your election day tomorrow. Make sure you get out there and vote.