Thursday, January 11, 2018

Nerd Nite 51 tonight

The first A2 Nerd Nite of 2018 is tonight. It will feature a very timely presentation by Stephanie Hamilton about the smaller objects in our solar system. There will also be talks about animals that eat their own poo and excitable media. Nerd Nite is at Live. Doors are at 6:30 and presentations start at 7. There is no cover thanks to AADL.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Ypsilanti City Council Preview for Jan. 9th, 2018

Today is the first Ypsilanti City Council Meeting of 2018. Here are the agenda and the meeting packet. The agenda is pretty light. There are no public hearings or first readings. There are two second readings on the consent agenda. One would amend the city's rules regarding purchases. The other would clean up the city's residential tax exemptions. I covered briefly last month. There are also three resolutions extending Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act tax exemptions, or OPRAs. It looks like the meeting will probably be pretty short.

Remember you to check the YpsiLive Facebook Group for a live stream of tonight's meeting.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Ann Arbor City Council Preview for Jan. 8, 2018

Tonight is the first #a2council meeting of 2018. You can check out the agenda here. The council seems to be easing into the new year with a light agenda. There is just one public hearing. It's on a new Ethics Ordinance. The ordinance would govern the removal of council members. Other interesting items include two resignations from city boards. Heather Lewis is resigning from the Zoning Board of Appeals. Will Leaf is resigning as a Housing and Human Services Advisory Board Member. Other than that, the agenda is pretty light. There aren't even consent agenda items at this point.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Ypsi Now Unconference this Saturday at Riverside Arts Center

Noted local puppeteer, Mark Maynard, is hosting an unconference to discuss the future of Ypsilanti at the Riverside Arts Center this Saturday at 4:00 pm. If you've never been to an unconference you're in for something new. Instead of having the agenda controlled by conference organizers, at an unconference, attendees get to shape the the event's discourse. So if you're interested in issues Ypsilanti, you should check out this event. Here's a quick interview I did this morning with Mark about the unconference:

Damn Arbor: Who should come to the unconference?

Mark Maynard: Some unconferences are private affairs. We chose to open this one up to the public. Maybe we'll regret it. Who knows? I've lived here for the better part of a quarter century now, though, and I'm always amazed by the new people I meet, and the cool and interesting things they're doing. So why not open up the doors and see what happens, right? Someone new could walk in that the other organizers and I have never met before, and she could have more energy and vision than the rest of us put together. Like anything, it's a leap of faith, but this community constantly surprises me in a positive way when I try stuff like this.

DA: What topics will be discussed at the unconference?

MM: You never know until you get there, as all the ideas come from the folks who show up. I think, however, there will likely be 12 different discussions taking place over the course of the 3 hours. Assuming people want to have one of the discussions be about how we share news as a community, I intend to suggest that as one potential topic.

DA: Can people from Ann Arbor come to the Ypsilanti Unconference?

MM: We don't intend to keep anyone our, or check IDs at the door. So, yeah, I guess anyone can come. I think folks will get the most value out of it, however, if they have an interest in Ypsi, like if they don't live here, but they go to college at EMU, work in town, own a business here, etc. But, yeah, I think anyone can come.

If you'd like more information about the unconference, check out Mark's article about it, or the Facebook page for the event.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Check out the AADL's new website

Gentle reader, the Ann Arbor District Library has a brand new website. It's the first redesign of the website since the last version launched in 2005. If you want to see what the AADL website looked like before 2005, check out the image below. There is a lot of new stuff to check out on the website. Avid book lovers will love that they can now freeze and unfreeze their requests. With this you will be able to keep your requests from moving forward if you have so many books checked out that you can't check out, or if you're going on vacation. There's also AAMPS, the Ann Arbor Music and Performance Server. It will allow you to stream music from local artists.

Other features include bookable rooms, and as a special New Year's treat, the AADL has waved all outstanding late fees.

The original AADL website, prior to the launch of the 2005 edition. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

2017 Year in Review

Damn Arbor Logo by Jon Wilcox

2017 was a good year for Damn Arbor. The 2016 election motivated me to bring the site back from a semi-mothballed state and to focus more coverage on local political issues. Looking over our top articles for 2017, it seems that you, gentle reader, were thirsty for local political coverage. Indeed, five of Damn Arbor's top 10 articles for 2017 fall into the broad category of local politics. Also this year, the Ann launched its daily newsletter, Annthology. The newsletter definitely helped drive traffic to Damn Arbor and did a great job catalyzing more coverage of local issues. If you haven't signed up for Annthology, you should consider checking it out in 2018.

All of this wouldn't be possible without you, gentle reader. If it were not for your continued readership, Damn Arbor would just be an echo in the void of the internet. Thank you for your continued support.

Without further ado, here are Damn Arbor's ten most popular articles with commentary from yours truly.

10. Two U of M Professors named 2017 MacArthur Fellows
This short article got a lot of traffic because someone on /r/annarbor linked to it.

9. Where is the best neighborhood fireworks display?
This article wasn't exactly hard-hitting journalism. That said the article asked a question that a lot of folks had on their mind.

8. Ma Lou's Fried Chicken, a review
A review Ypsilanti's newest fried chicken restaurant. Spoiler alert: the food is quite good.

7. Art Fair Bingo 2017
An update to the classic Art Fair Bingo game. Provided to us by UMich Senior RJ Cron.

6. How did a picture from Ann Arbor's 1998 anti-Klan protest become a logo for anti-racist punks in Germany?
This article looked at the Goodnight White Pride logo which is based on a picture from Ann Arbor's 1998 anti-Klan protest. How did that picture become travel across the Atlantic to become the anti-racist logo? Nobody seems to know.

5. Last day to register for November election
This article from October was just a friendly reminder to register to vote. Maybe in the future Michigan can get same day voter registration. That would be nice.

4. Ypsilanti City Council votes to enter purchase agreement with International Village for Water Street
One of the two top ten articles on the continuing Water Street saga. I filed this article at 1:02 AM on Wednesday, September 20, 2017, four minutes after the Ypsilanti City Council voted to enter the purchase agreement with International Village. Never underestimate the importance of attending city council meetings in person.

3. Ypsilanti City Council Report: Ypsilanti on track to forbid municipal solicitation of immigration status
Another report from an Ypsilanti City Council meeting. This one from January when the Ypsilanti City Council voted to forbid city employees from inquiring about immigration status except in specific situations.

2. Scorekeepers, the most popular Uber destination in Michigan
This could have been a throwaway article if MGoBlog had not tweeted it and linked to the post. Thanks MGoBlog. Also, I'm happy you are writing about local politics.

1. How a resolution to hold a hearing on affordable housing at Water Street became a flashpoint for controversy
This article from guest writer, Nathanael Paul Romero, was by far the most read article on Damn Arbor in 2017. It covered a particularly contentious Ypsilanti City Council Meeting in September of this year. I really appreciate Nathanael giving Damn Arbor permission to publish his write-up of the meeting.

Well there you have it gentle reader, Damn Arbor's first ever year in review. Again, thank you all for reading. I'd like to give special thanks to people who contributed articles this year: Gautam Hans, Ed Vielmetti, Chris Dzombak, Lauren Trimble, Matt Siegfried, John Richard Thompson, and Nathanael Paul Romero.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Much ado about crossing, redux

A photo of one of Ann Arbor's new crosswalk ordinance success rate signs. Photo by Mary Morgan. 

Dedicated readers of Damn Arbor will know we strongly support Ann Arbor's Crosswalk Ordinance. By way of background, here are just a few Crosswalk Ordinance articles from our archive: Much ado about crossing; Reflections on the Crosswalk Ordinance; Stay vigilant for coming attacks on the Crosswalk Ordinance; and, Mayor promises to veto repeal of crosswalk ordinance.

Broadly speaking, Damn Arbor supports things that make it easier to be a pedestrian. We do however have two pieces of constructive criticism. First we'd like to see more HAWK Walks, especially for crosswalks on 4 lane roads. We know HAWK Walks cost more than RRFBs but we feel like the hawk walk signaling is clearer and more visible than RRFBs making for a safer crosswalk on busy roads.

Second, we would like to see street signs at major entrances into Ann Arbor that explain the crosswalk ordinance. Something along the lines of: "local law: drivers must yield to pedestrians at marked crosswalks." This would help address the question of how to communicate the ordinance to drivers that don't live in the city. There are about 50,000 weekday commuters into Ann Arbor, plus visitors for special events like sports games and festivals. It is important that we communicate our crosswalk expectations to these drivers if we want them to comply with the ordinance.

I bring this up because of the new crosswalk ordinance success rate signs that have sprouted up (see picture above). It seems like if Ann Arbor can spring for, what I assume are custom signs, the city could get for some signs explaining the ordinance at major road entrances into the city. Just like we have those signs saying drivers must stop for school bus losing and unloading. Street signs are a standard way of communicating rules and expectations to drivers. If we want to make sure as many drivers know about the crosswalk ordinance as possible, we need to make sure drivers know about the ordinance. Especially those drivers that commute into our city. The recent Crosswalk Ordinance Memo lists the way the city has attempted to inform people of the Crosswalk Ordinance. So far the city has used the following methods:, Facebook (City and AAPD), Twitter (City and AAPD), MLive, CTN, WEMU, Posters, Bumper stickers, Keychains, Slap bracelets, Informational handouts, Resident Newsletter, Bus ads (on buses and at bus stops), Print ads, Radio ads.
It is jaw dropping that the city has elected to use slap bracelets before street signs in attempting to inform people about Crosswalk Ordinance. I know slap bracelets are much cheaper than street signs, but they just don't seem to be like an effective way to communicate to motorists or pedestrians at scale.

If Ann Arbor wants to increase the percentage of drivers who yield to pedestrians, the city needs to make sure as many drivers know about the Crosswalk Ordinance as possible. On an average weekday, 50,000 people commute into Ann Arbor. Most of these commuters are driving. There are also numerous people who visit Ann Arbor for the Hospital, the University, or various festivals. We cannot expect these people to comply with the Crosswalk Ordinance if they don't know what the Crosswalk Ordinance is. Clearly information about the Crosswalk Ordinance has not been spread as widely as possible. Ann Arbor needs to find a way to communicate its crosswalk expectations to people who don't read MLive and don't wear slap bracelets. The city should invest in street signs that explain our Crosswalk Ordinance at the major road entrances into Ann Arbor.

Special thanks to CivCity's Mary Morgan for the picture above.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

PictureThis, a fun tool to critique signs in Ann Arbor

Gentle reader, do you have strong feelings about signs? Now's your chance to let the city know how you feel. The city is working on an update of the sign ordinance (Title 5, Chapter 61). To help with this process, the city has launched PictureThis, a web app that lets you upload, geotag, and comment on the signs you see, all anonymously.

Right now there are only 44 pictures uploaded, but some of the comments are really great. Take for example this one below, where someone feels personally insulted by this Verizon Sign.

Gentle reader, why don't you check out PictureThis and give the city feedback on your favorite signs.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Ypsilanti City Council Preview for Dec. 19, 2017

Tomorrow is the final Ypsilanti City Council meeting for 2017. On the agenda. The item I am most interested in is a report on the sidewalk gap along Washtenaw between Anna Dom Bakeries. This sidewalk gap is all that separates the Normal Park neighborhood from the delicious apple fritters at Dom's. The sidewalk gap memo (Council Packet, Page 180) concludes with "Staff’s current recommendation is to consider this project for specific inclusion in the Capital Improvements Plan during the upcoming annual revision." So maybe Normal Parkers will not have to choose between walking in the street or on someone's lawn for too much longer.

There are other items of interest on tomorrow's agenda. There are two ordinance first readings with associated public hearings. The first, Ordinance 1299, amends Chapter 2 of the City Code. Specifically it specifies rules for procurement of goods and services. The second, Ordinance 1300, cleans up the the city code with regard to several tax exemptions that are for projects that never came to fruition or that are outdated. See page 109 of the council packet for more info.

The Council will be voting on whether to enter an agreement with the Huron River Watershed Council for a study on removing the Peninsular Park Dam. There are more details on the proposal and the current state of the dam starting on page 151 of the council packet. One item that stands out is that it would take an estimated $659,000 to fix the dam. As an aside, if you're interested in the hydro power potential of the Peninsular Park Dam, the Ann Arbor Chronicle has a great article about the potential for hydro power at the Argo Dam you should check out.

Finally there are a couple of interesting presentations at tomorrow's meeting. The first will be on the Ypsilanti Housing Commission from Executive Director Zachary Fosler. The second will be on the 2017-2018 snow removal plan.

Check out the Ypsi Live Facebook group for a live stream. If you follow along make sure you tweet about the meeting using the #YpsiCouncil hashtag.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Ann Arbor City Council Preview

The parcels that are part of the Glen Mixed Use Development are outlines in red.

Gentle readers, the last #a2council meeting of the year is tomorrow night. It looks like the council is really trying to go out with a bang: there are 8 public hearings scheduled tomorrow night. You can check out the full agenda here. Two of the public hearings, PH-1 and PH-2, concern the Glen Mixed Use Development planned for the empty lot at the corner of Glen and Ann. This lot is one of the more prominent holes in our city and it will be interesting to see how this proposal is received by the neighborhood and the city at large.

Another interesting item on the agenda is a memo reviewing the Crosswalk Ordinance. I've just scanned the 20 page report but here are some highlights. First here's a resolution from the November 15th Transportation Commission meeting:

The Transportation Commission recommends that City Council maintain the Crosswalk Ordinance in its current iteration based on the review and discussion of the ordinance that the Commission has had and the research that has been done by staff.
Interestingly, there is a section of the report that discusses methods that have been used to communicate about the Crosswalk Ordinance. Seeing the list reminds me that the city still has not put up signs at the major entrances into Ann Arbor explaining our Crosswalk Ordinance.

Another interesting item on the agenda is C-3,An amendment to the City Code to add a chapter establishing a procedure for removing a councilperson from office. Gentle reader, what interests you the most in tomorrow's #a2council agenda?