Tuesday, January 31, 2017

#A2Council Viewing Party: Monday, Feb. 6

During the Feb. 6 City Council meeting, we’ll be hosting a viewing party at Workantile, the Main St. coworking space. Join us!

City council meetings start at 7pm, so we'll gather at Workantile around 6:45. We'll have a video feed of the meeting running on a big TV, and many of the #A2Council Twitter folk plus our friends will be there for real-time commentary and socializing.

Whether you're heavily invested in local politics or just curious, this should be a fun and interesting event. All are welcome.

Please bring your own drinks & snacks, if you're so inclined.

Workantile's address is 118 S. Main St.
Facebook event: City Council Viewing Party.

Changes in parking enforcement hours may be coming to Ann Arbor

The only photo in our archive of a parking meter. 
Free parking at metered spaces after 6 pm in Ann Arbor may become a think of the past. At their regularly scheduled Feb. 1 meeting tomorrow, the DDA is voting on a resolution that would, among other things, extend the hours of parking enforcement at metered spaces from 6pm to 8pm. On the plus side, they would eliminate parking time restrictions on metered spaces after 5 pm so if you park downtown for the evening, you wouldn't have to switch your parking spot after two hours. You can read the entire proposed on pages 18 and 19 of the DDA Board Packet.
Personally, I'm torn. I know extending hours for metered parking is likely to help those spaces turn over more quickly and to help drive longer-term parking to the parking structures. And I know this generally makes for a more efficient parking system. But from a personal standpoint, there is really nothing sweeter that free parking.
Gentle readers, what do you think about the DDA extending parking enforcement hours for metered spots?

Emergency Town Hall meeting in Dearborn tomorrow

Local non-profit, Take On Hate, is hosting an emergency town hall meeting tomorrow, February 1st, in Dearborn. The meeting is from 6-9 pm at the Ford Community & Preforming Arts Center. Presenters include: Abed Ayoub, Legal Director of American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee; Khaled Beydoun, Professor of Law at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law; and representatives from the ACLU of Michigan. The discussion will cover topics including Discussion topics your legal rights, Trump's Executive Orders (Muslim Ban, Border Wall), and CVE (Surveillance).

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Ann Arbor Liquor License Reviews, 2017

The Ann Arbor City Council Liquor License Review Committee, led by committee chair Jane Lumm (I-Second Ward), met in council chambers on Friday, January 27, 2017 at noon to discuss recommendations for licenses not to be renewed for the coming year. Typically, this committee recommends to council that liquor license holders who are delinquent on their previous year's taxes, who operate in a dangerous building, or have some other substantial code violation be recommended for non-renewal of their liquor license. Lumm referred to this as a "big stick" to get licensees to pay up on their 2015 city taxes.

The committee meeting concluded with a recommendation that five Ann Arbor restaurants and bars - Banfield's Bar and Grill, Old Carolina BBQ, Nagomi Sushi, Burger Fi, and Ashley's - each go in front of a hearing on February 22, 2017 if their taxes are not paid up by then. This recommendation will go before City Council on February 6, 2017 for approval. If any of these establishments pay their back taxes and fees before then, there will be no objection to striking them from the hearing list.

The Ann Arbor City Clerk provided a list of more than 100 establishments in Ann Arbor that have a liquor license. The Ann Arbor liquor license spreadsheet for 2017 is up on a2docs for planning your next pub crawl. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Immigration Protest

I was at the federal building downtown earlier today among a small crowd of impromptu protesters — many of them children — against the President's executive order on immigration. Many of the kids were holding signs asking for honks in support of refugees and immigrants; this being Ann Arbor, there were more than a few honks. Perhaps most notably was that a noticeable crowd turned up with little notice. A potential harbinger for future community action?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A2 Data Rescue this Friday and Saturday at Shapiro Library

Gentle readers, are you afraid that the climate data you or a loved one's dissertation will evaporate off a government server in the coming days? Want to pitch in and do your part as a citizen to preserve important public-facing government data? Well then get yourself, your laptop and your external drive down to U of M's Shapiro Library this Friday and Saturday. As part of the national Data Refuge Program, A2 Data Rescue is hosting a group archiving session. You can RSVP for the even here on FB. The event runs from 10am - 6pm Friday and Saturday.

I'f you'd like some more background on the Data Rescue Movement PRI's The World had a good segment about it on this evening's program. You can read the piece here, or stream it below:

Happy Birthday Michigan

Happy Birthday Michigan. May I just say, you're looking great for 180. We may never know where the great plateau that appears on early maps of the Lower Peninsula went, but I still love ya.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Ypsilanti City Council Report: Ypsilanti on track to forbid municipal solicitation of immigration status

UPDATE: Jan. 26th 2017--As CM Robb points out in his comment below, I was incorrect in my assertion below that ""this will essentially make Ypsilanti a sanctuary city". Ypsilanti's no-solicitation of papers ordinance is specifically tailored to not be a sanctuary city ordinance. The article has been updated to reflect this correction. Old text has been struckthrough new text is in italics. The title of the article has been updated too. I've also corrected the location of the Bell-Kramer neighborhood in relation to the city's old dump.

There was a packed house for last night's Ypsilanti City Council Meeting. You can find the full meeting agenda here. The majority of the folks in attendance were there to support an ordinance that would prevent city employees from asking people for their immigration status. There was also a large group from the Bell-Kramer neighborhood. It was my first time attending a full city council meeting in meatspace and it was an enjoyable enough experience. Though, I do wish #YpsiCouncil meetings were live streamed. Here are the highlights from last night's meeting:

No solicitation of paper's ordinance passes first reading. With unanimous support, the city council voted to adopt the "no solicitation of immigration status" ordinance. Upon passing a second reading, this will essentially make Ypsilanti a sanctuary city. As CM Robb points out in his comment below, this ordinance does not make Ypsilanti a sanctuary city, per se: "The main tenent(sic) of being a sanctuary city is to not permit municipal funds be used to enforce federal immigration laws. The ordinance specifically has a clause regarding this:

Sec. 58-204. - Solicitation of immigration status by public servants, prohibited; exceptions (b)(3) Solicitation of information concerning immigration status where specifically required by any federal, state, or city law or program as a condition of eligibility for the service sought; ...

This ordinance will make it a violation of the City's policy for anyone who works for the city to ask someone about their immigration status except under very specific situations. as I mentioned above, there were about 50 folks in attendance last night to support the ordinance. Many of the supporters spoke at the public hearing for the ordinance including a high school student who spoke about how terrifying it was when her family was pulled over and asked about their immigration statues. A local social worker also spoke about working with an immigrant family whose landlord is violating local rental ordinance but who are scared to report the landlord because of their immigration status.

During the debate about the ordinance, I heard a disturbing rumor. My notes on this are not great, so someone please correct me if I'm wrong. Someone reported to the council that the Representative for Michigan's 32nd Congressional District, Pamela Hornberger was planning on introducing a bill next week that would ban municipalities from becoming sanctuary cities in Michigan. I'm not sure if I have all the details right on that, but regardless, keep your ears to the ground gentle readers and prepare to organize if you believe in municipalities should be able to decide if they wish to become sanctuary cities or not.

Amendment of PMD (industrial) zoning for Bell-Kramer neighborhood passes first reading. The Bell-Kramer neighborhood was built on adjacent tothe site of the city's old dump in the early50s and 60s, before there were environmental standards. In 2013, the city discovered contamination was migrating from the dump towards the neighborhood. This prompted the city to rezone the neighborhood from R2 (one or two family residential) to PMD (Production, Manufacture, and Distribution) as part of a larger zoning code modernization in 2014. Unfortunately, this made it so every residential structure in the neighborhood was non-conforming. That means that residents had difficulty getting insurance, could not rebuild after a loss, and could not receive financing. Several residents of Bell-Kramer spoke last night asking for the city to return the neighborhood to residential zoning. While the city awaits more environmental testing, they voted to amend the PMD zoning to allow for the residential structures that are currently in Bell-Kramer. This will allow people to refinance their houses and rebuild structures after a loss (eg fire). It will not allow for construction of new residential structures at this time.

Gentle readers, do any of you know more about the zoning modernization effort in Ypsilanti in 2014? I'm wondering if this current issue an unintended consequence of zoning a residential neighborhood PMD. If you'd like to read more about the contamination and zoning issues in Bell-Kramer Mark Maynard has a good series: here and here .

One thing that really struck me last night was how tight the city budget is right now. Some council members were hesitant as to whether the city should apply for a federal SAFER grant to fund more firefighting positions. The grant would pay for the lion's share of the salaries, but the city would be on the hook for some of the salary in the third year of the grant. It would be a net savings for the city because right now fire department staffing is so low, we are paying about $200,000 per year in overtime to maintain minimum safe staffing. I think it was Councilmember Robb (D W3) who mentioned that accepting this grant might violate the city's hiring freeze ordinance.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

ANNthology, like The Skimm, but for local news

EJ turned me on to The Skimm back in September. Gentle reader, if you have Simmed, I'm sure you have wondered why there is no local version of the internet's hottest daily news blast. Well look no further: the Ann Magazine's Annthology news letter is here to blast your inbox with local news every weekday morning. You should totally check it out. ANNthology is like a clearinghouse for great content including everything from our county's three college papers, to Concentrate Media and GroundCover News, to the regions best blogs, including your's truly.

If you'd like to take a peek, you can check out the first two newsletters here and here. If you like what you see, consider signing up for ANNthology.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Vices of Washtenaw County

Proportion of adults who have binge drank in the last 30 days
MLive is reporting on the County's 2015 Health Survey. There's a nice web interface that allows you to map out various health indicators across the county. By mapping out the health indicators, you can start to see that there are some geographic differences in preferred vice in Washtenaw County. The Saline/Milan area as well as the Ann Arbor and Dexter/Chelsea areas score high on two different indicators of alcohol consumption: binge drinking and proportion of adults who are heavy drinkers.

Proportion of adults who are heavy drinkers

The Ypsilanti area on the other hand, shows a definite preference for all types of smoking: tobacco (not shown), cannabis, and everyone's favorite e-cigarettes.
Proportion of adults who have used cannabis products in the last year

Proportion of adults who vape

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Puns, LEDs and Fake News at Nerd Nite tonight

The lineup for tonight's Nerd Nite looks pretty great. From the description:

It’s the new year and we’ve got an all new line up of speakers ready to let their nerd light shine. First up is Reema Abi-Akar, who knows there’s nothing new under the pun, but has some quip-witted repartee on everyone’s (dad’s) favorite kind of wordplay. Andrew McAllister, he studies applied physics, he works on a super computer, and he predicts a glorious and well-lit future in which super-efficient LED bulbs are also super-affordable. Newshound Jim McBee of The Ann magazine is here to talk about those phony news stories your uncle keeps sharing on Facebook, and how to separate the credible from the incredible. It’s going to be illuminating in more ways than pun one!
When: Thursday, January 19, 2017, doors at 6:30 pm, talks at 7 pm!
Where: LIVE, 102 S First St, Ann Arbor
NO COVER, thanks to your friendly neighborhood AADL!