Friday, March 6, 2015

Theater happenings

Tonight, two great shows are opening in Ann Arbor. Stones in His Pockets opens at the Performance Network and runs through April 5th. At Theater Nova, Sebastian Gerstner is staring in the Michigan premier of Buyer and Cellar. In this one-man show an unemployed actor who finds work manning the mall in Barbara Streisand’s basement, which is a real thing I guess. You should definitely check out this show as Sebastian is one of my absolute favorite local actors.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tonight at the AADL: Ann Arbor Elections: What works? What doesn't?

The Ann Arbor League of Women Voters is hosting a forum tonight at the AADL. The panelists will be discussing some of the unique features of Ann Arbor's local political landscape. From the LWV:

Did you know that Ann Arbor is one of only three cities in the entire state that holds partisan city elections? The other two are our neighbor Ypsilanti and the City of Ionia. Wonder why that is? Is it because it is a better way or are there other reasons?

LWV-AAA intends to explore that very issue in a mini-series of forums beginning this spring. On March 3rd we will begin the conversation with Ann Arbor Elections: What works? What doesn't.

I know Dave Askins has been working on cranking out a lot of graphs and charts for his presentation tonight. You really don't want to miss that.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Downtown Ambassador Update

Gentle reader, have you been wondering about the current state of the DDA's Downtown Ambassador Program? I have and I found some answers in Concentrate's recent interview with DDA member Roger Hewitt:
CONCENTRATE: The downtown ambassadors program has caused lots of controversy. People have said it doesn't fit with the character people want to see in their downtown, and that it seeks to solve a problem that doesn't exist. Do you understand that criticism, and what is your reaction to it?

RH: We definitely heard the criticism. We are going forward at a very measured, careful pace as a result of it. There was a lot of misinformation about what the program was going to do, and I don't know how that information got out. Most of the commenters, if you read them, hadn't read any of the information that we put out about the program. And these are programs that are throughout the nation. We've identified at least 70 downtowns that have this program, including Berkley, and they seem to be quite happy with it there.

Before we do anything on ambassadors, we need to to explain exactly what we're trying to do with this program, which is, basically, help people at all levels. Whether you are a panhandler on the street or whether you are parents bringing a student in, it's someone there to offer some help if you need it. To me, it's a very fundamental Ann Arbor value.

I think there is somewhat of a disconnect between what goes on in the campus area and what goes on in the Main Street area. I don't think everyone understands the different cultures of the two areas. [The problem the ambassadors program is seeking to solve] is primarily in the campus area. So people are not seeing it. At night, particularly later in the evening, there is a fair amount petty crime that goes on that would make an extra set eyes on the street helpful. I think there are more homeless people in the campus area and a number of these people need help. Both the boards of the State Street Association and the South University Association unanimously support the ambassador program.

But we certainly have heard people, and we certainly aren't going to ram anything down people's throats. We are certainly not going to start negotiating a contract until the community has a good understanding of the program and at least a majority of people support of it.

You should read the whole interview on Concentrate. But getting back to the Ambassador Program, here are some of my thoughts:
The widespread criticism of the program has worked, sort of. Hewitt seems to discount some of by classifying it as "misinformed." Still, they don't want to "ram anything down people's throats." So keep those comment cards coming and attend DDA meetings and speak during public commentary if you can.

Seems like the DDA Board is responding to a lot of pressure from the South University Association and the State Street Association boards. How much do those boards represent the businesses in their regions? How many people are on those boards? How can we influence those board members? How much should the DDA respond to the Down Town Neighborhood Associations relative to regular citizens?

It still seems like the Ambassador Program would be used to get "eyes on the streets" in order to prevent minor property crime, "aggressive panhandling," and direct homeless people to services. Why do we need to hire a shady outside corporation to do this? Couldn't the DDA just spend the $300k per year to hire an extra police officer or two and some social workers?

The DDA at a turning point?
Some thoughts on the DDA Ambassador Program and Homelessness

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ann Arbor hottest new market is Lucky's

Last night, my sister and I went to soft opening the soft opening of Lucky's Market's brand new Ann Arbor store. The grocery store is located in the old Kroger building on South Industrial. There is something especially nice about a brand new, clean grocery store with tall piles of bright produce.

Lucky's has a good selection of great looking produce. Yes, that is turmeric in the bottom right. 

My initial impression is that Lucky's fills an important niche in Ann Arbor's foodscape. They offer high quality food, but they also seem to be conscious of price.

Update from Mayor Taylor

Earlier this month, Mayor Taylor shared this update on current issues in the city. This covers a huge range of issues, and it's interesting reading.

One highlight is that we'll see a lot of road repairs this year—more than last year—which should make driving more comfortable in 2016. And there's a statement on the shooting of Aura Rosser.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tell the AAPD how it's doing

The Ann Arbor Police Department last week posted two online surveys to measure perceptions of safety in the city and satisfaction with interactions with the police department.

I'd encourage you, dear reader, to take a few minutes to complete those surveys when you have a chance. It certainly can't hurt anything, and they're anonymous.

Police Chief John Seto says in the city's press release, "The perspectives shared on these surveys will help us as we strive to provide the best possible service to the community."

The AADL's Ann Arbor News archives: photos and factoids

I had the good fortune on Monday to join a tour of the AADL facility where they're housing and digitizing the Ann Arbor News archives, along with archives of other local newspapers and some other interesting stuff. The tour was organized by friend of Damn Arbor, Patti Smith, for the local nonprofit A2Geeks.

The man in the striped shirt is Andrew MacLaren.

We were met by Andrew MacLaren, one of the AADL's archivists, who gave us background information and guided us on the tour. The archives consist primarily of bound volumes of the News, photo negatives, and backfiles, plus the clip files the AADL maintained on its own.

Negative images of historical front pages greet visitors.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds judgment against Andrew Shirvell

This is old news at this point, but it just came across my Twitter feed tonight. I'll be brief…

Remember Andrew Shirvell, the former assistant attorney general who was fired in 2010 for harassing, defaming, and stalking Chris Armstrong, UM's first openly gay Michigan Student Assembly president?

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in January upheld a judgment denying his request for unemployment benefits. So it turns out that stalking and harassing people is still not a great idea, especially if you're a high-profile government employee.

Ann Arbor requests voluntary removal of cars from certain streets for snow plowing

I could not come up with a well-phrased version of this title :(

But at any rate, over the next month the city is going to perform some extra evening snow plowing on some neighborhood streets. And if you're on one of those streets, they would like you to move your car for a few hours so they can do a good job.

Head over to this article on the city's site for a list of roads, dates, and times.

edited to add:

I just recently discovered the many email lists the city will let you subscribe to. On their website, you can subscribe to updates on…well, just about anything Ann Arbor-related!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Ann Arbor in Podcast

If you're looking for a nice Friday diversion at the office today, check out 99% Invisible, Episode 83: Heyoon. It's about a strange object located in a field north of Ann Arbor.
If that doesn't do it for you, there's also Jordan, Jesse, Go! Episode 171: Gene Buttman, Live in Ann Arbor. Recorded live at the AADL in 2011, this episode features a shoutout to Deputy Director Eli Neiburger.
Gentle readers, do you have a favorite Ann Arbor-centric podcast episode, or a favorite Ann Arbor-based podcast?

h/t: @emilbeckwilcox for the 99% Invisible episode.