Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: January 18, 2021

It's #a2Council night in Ann Arbor. Here's the meeting agenda and here's the A2AF episode about the agenda

The evening kicks off with a short, six-item, consent agenda. Of note, there are two street closings. CA-3 is for the Shamrocks and Shenanigans 5k on March 13. CA-4 is for the Big House 5k on April 10. CA-6 is approval of hiring the new DDA executive director.

There are three public hearings on the agenda tonight. PH-1/B-1 is on a routine township annexation. PH-2/B-2 is the second reading of the updates to the disorderly conduct ordinance. I think there is an important missed opportunity here to engage in harm reduction here with regards to decriminalizing consensual sex work. PH-3/DB-1 is on township island annexation for the Villages of Ann Arbor site plan in Ward 1. 

Further down the agenda we have DC-1, a resolution condemning antisemitism. DC-2 is a resolution to "Begin Discussions with University of Michigan (U-M) for 2,000 Units of Workforce Housing on U-M’s North Campus and Agreement on Additional Student and Employee Residential Units Commensurable with U-M’s Growth." My two cents on this one: there is a housing crisis in Ann Arbor. That said, it is not UM's mission to house its workforce. There is one group in particular that is in the best position to address Ann Arbor's housing crisis: the city council. This resolution is a waste of time and an example of passing the buck. 

[Aside: legistar has stopped working for me at the moment so my description of subsequent resolutions will be short.]

DC-3 is a resolution to improve winter sidewalk accessibility and safety. This is good. I'd love to see Ann Arbor move towards municipal sidewalk snow removal. DC-4 is a resolution on the need for upgrades to DTE's streetlights in Ann Arbor. DC-5 is on how to prioritize  repairing the city's streetlight system. DC-6 is a resolution requesting a feasibility study for the creation of a municipal electric utility as well as a local sustainable electric utility.  It's exciting to see this moving forward. 

And that's it. What items are you most looking forward to seeing? Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2Council hashtag.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Opinion: Why I don't Support the Treeline Trail Plan

I need to start by saying, I love bike trails. About a decade ago, I took up with some people who were doing a weekly casual bike ride they called “Bicycle Beer Time”: ride the Border-to-Border trail from Ann Arbor to Ypsilanti, have a beer and some snacks at Corner Brewery, then ride back home. Before that, I was not much of a bike person, but the ride sounded fun, the people seemed cool, and - critically - the route was easy, safe, and comfortable.

It turned out to be a gateway to much bigger things. It was with this same group of people that I rode on my first multi-day bike tour, a week long ride from Ann Arbor to Traverse City. (We’ve done similar adventures almost every year since then, all over the US and even in Europe). I became a dedicated bike commuter. It’s through bikes that I met and continue to meet some of my favorite people in the world.

So, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the B2B trail changed my life.

The author on the B2B trail, port-ing a pie to a pedal-powered picnic. (Photo credit: Bike-In)

Knowing that, you’d probably think I’d be in favor of more bike trails - and generally speaking, I am. Indeed, when I first started hearing about the “Allen Creek Greenway” project that has since become The Treeline, I thought it sounded great, though I didn’t really dig very far into the details. This all changed when, in mid-2017, the city released its Framework Plan (which was then revised into the Treeline Master Plan and formally adopted by City Council later that year). As I read further and further into this document, my feelings shifted from excitement to incredulity and even a bit of anger: the price tag and proposed design seemed… preposterous; the plan was completely out-of-scale with what would make sense for Ann Arbor.

Even so, for a long time I’ve hesitated to speak out publicly against The Treeline, because as an advocate for safe bike infrastructure, I’ve become conditioned to take whatever I can get. Opposing a project simply because it’s an expensive and suboptimal design is a hard stance to take when the alternative may well be a big pile of nothing. However, it’s become increasingly clear that The Treeline is worse than that; it threatens some of the most critical work our community is undertaking to address the crises of our time - housing affordability, climate change, and - counterintuitively - bike and pedestrian safety. My concerns fall into four key areas:

  • It began as, and continues to be, a means to reject development of badly-needed housing
  • Its design represents an outmoded, car-centric way of thinking
  • The cost - and opportunity cost - is massive
  • It does not address non-motorized mobility in underserved areas of our community

Before I go any further, I should point out that these criticisms apply to the current advocacy efforts around The Treeline (e.g. from the Treeline Conservancy, the private nonprofit set up to pursue implementation of the trail), and to the Treeline Master Plan. There is certainly some value, however, in the core idea of a north-south "urban trail" through Ann Arbor. I believe that by eliminating expensive elevated structures and re-envisioning The Treeline as a ground-level and substantially on-street corridor, it can be salvaged into a much simpler, less expensive, and ultimately more useful amenity.

The Treeline vs Affordable Housing

Monday, January 3, 2022

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: January 3, 2022


Holy cow, it's 2022. Tonight is the first #a2Council meeting of the new year and the first in person council meeting in a while. Here's the agenda, and here's the A2AF episode about the meeting. 

Even before we get to the consent agenda, there are two important reports coming to council tonight. AC-1 is Resolution Directing the City Administrator to Develop an Unarmed Public Safety Response Program. Molly covers this well in the A2AF episode, you should listen to it. AC-2 is a report on pedestrian safety improvements around schools. Again, you should check out Molly's thoughts on this. 

Moving on to the sparse consent agenda. There are only three items. The first two items are for dental and health insurance. 

There are three public hearings on the agenda tonight. PH-1/B-1 is on changes to the storm water management and soil erosion ordinance. One change this would make is that by-right projects that pass Planning Commission would no longer come to council for votes. This is a good change because 1) having to go to more meetings for approval increases the cost of projects, and thus the cost of new housing. And 2) it gives the false idea that council has some say in these projects (see for example, the todo about the recent Earhart Road Development). PH-2/B-2 is on the new purchasing, contracting, and selling rules. PH-3 is on the consideration of developing an industrial district on Research Park Drive on land owned by Sartorius IDD. 

C-1 is on the first reading of an ordinance updating city laws on disorderly conduct including sex work. It is good that Ann Arbor is adding gender neutral language to our ordinances, but a missed opportunity to decriminalize things. Specifically, there is a missed opportunity to make prostitution a civil infraction rather than a misdemeanor. Crowd surfing and aiding and abetting crowd surfing probably don't need to be misdemeanors either. One positive change to the ordinances it is no longer a crime to transport someone to do sex work. 

DC-1 is resolution that asks DTE to be better about fixing streetlights near crosswalks.  DTE owns about 2/3 of Ann Arbor's streetlights but I don't know how much power council has to compel action from DTE.

And that's it. A pretty sparse agenda. What items are you most looking forward to seeing? Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2Council hashtag.


Monday, December 20, 2021

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: December 20, 2021


Gentle reader, tonight is the last #a2Council meeting of 2021. Here's the agenda. You'll also want to make sure you listen to the A2AF episode about tonight's meeting. 

The evening starts off with a small, 6-item consent agenda. Of note CA-6, a resolution to purchase 730 Madison Place, an undeveloped 0.410 acre lot on the city's west side, for $320,000.

What the agenda lacks in consent agenda items, it makes up for in public hearings; there are 6. PH-1/B-1 and PH-2/DB-1 are on the rezoning and site plan for the Mill Creek Townhomes development at 3002 Chelsea Circle. This (PH-1) rezones 32.6 acres from R3 (townhouse) to RB4 (multi family). These come to council with full support of planning commission. I'm happy to see this increase in density. 

PH-3/B-2 is the second reading of the Dominick's PUD. This is about the promised deletion of a driveway. PH-4/B-3 is an ordinance to amend Chapter 27 (Water Service). I feel like this is important, but I don't remember what it's about. 

PH-5/B-4 is an update to the laws criminalizing sniffing model glues. The update makes it easier to read and add gender neutral language. I think trying to solve public health problems (substance use) with our broken criminal justice system is a bad idea. I think that this law should be repealed. They discuss this on A2AF and you can read more of my thoughts here

PH-6/B-5 is an update to the law that criminalizes nunchuck possession. No thoughts on this other than this: when the outlaw nunchucks, then only outlaws will have nunchucks. 

Elsewhere on the agenda we have two ordinance first readings. C-1 is the first reading of a township island rezoning. C-2 is the first reading of an ordinance updating the rules for city purchasing in light of the charter amendment revision that passed in November. 

On to the resolutions. DC-1 is a resolution to appoint new members to the Independent Police Oversight Commission. DC-2 is a software purchase agreement. DC-3 is an employment agreement with the new city attorney, Atleen Kaur. DC-4 is the city's participation plan for the National Prescription Opioid Settlement. And finally, DC-5 is a resolution to require masks at future, in person, #a2Council meetings. Wait there's more: DS-1, a resolution to approve new advanced water metering infrastructure and opt-out fees. 

And that's it, I think. As always, gentle reader, I am probably forgetting some very important items here. What agenda items are you most looking forward to seeing. I am guessing that tonight will be another late night around the virtual council table. Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2Council hashtag.



Ann Arbor should get rid of its laws criminalizing drug use

The city council should start tonight by deleting Chapter 113: Regulation of Model Glues.


The penalties section from Ann Arbor City Code, Chapter 113: Regulation of Model Glues

 

Ann Arbor is in the process of reviewing all the city's ordinances and modernizing them. As explained by City Attorney Slay at the Dec. 6th council meeting, part of this effort involves making sure Ann Arbor's ordinances use gender neutral language, and that they are are easy to read. These are admirable goals. The systematic review of the city's ordinances gives council the opportunity to get rid of all city ordinances that criminalize drug use. 

Substance use disorder is a disease. Laws that criminalize drug use are ineffective at curbing drug use. They are also immoral; these laws serve as a legal means for the use off state violence against members of our community with substance use disorders. Our broken criminal justice system is an inappropriate tool to use to solve a public health problem. 

At tonight's #a2Council meeting, the council will have a public hearing and vote on the second reading of an ordinance to modernize the city's laws that criminalize inhalant use (PH-5/B-4). It is my hope that council will not pass this ordinance as written and will instead delete this entire chapter from Ann Arbor's Code of Ordinances. If you feel the same way, please write council or share your thoughts tonight during Public Hearing 5. 

Monday, December 6, 2021

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: December 6, 2021


Gentle reader, tonight is the second to last #a2Council meeting of the year. It promises to be a barn burner. Here's the agenda. Check out the Ann Arbor AF episode about this meeting. I always do before writing these previews. The elephant in the room tonight is not really on the agenda. Last week, council voted to release the content of the Guajardo/Fournier report. This was an independent investigation of allegations made by former HR Director Guajardo against Assistant City Administrator Fournier. The report absolved Fournier but also revealed that two CMs, Ramlawi and Nelson, may have broken the confidentiality of a closed session. I imagine this will come up at the meeting. 

The evening kicks off with a substantial, 25-item consent agenda. Of note: CA-4, renaming Winchell Park, which is named after a super racist former Ann Arbor resident. 

There is one public hearing on the agenda tonight on PH-1/DB-1, the site plan for 106 North Forth. This is a relatively minor addition and comes with unanimous support of planning commission. 

There are 4 ordinance first readings on the agenda tonight. C-1 is on a rule change to the opt out program for advanced water metering infrastructure. C-2 is updates the rules around Storm Water Management, Soil Erosion, and Site Plans in the Unified Development Code. C-3 updates the criminalization of huffing model glue to include new types of glues. This is part of an ongoing modernization of local laws. This is a great opportunity to truly modernize our laws and stop ciminializing substance abuse disorders. This should be sent back to the drawing board. C-4 is a modernization of the city's laws around weapons. Interestingly this maintains the city's prohibition of nun-chuks and throwing stars.

On to the resolutions. DC-2 is going to be a spicy chili. This is council committee appointments for 2022. Two things to note here. CM Hayner is not being appointed to any committees as a consequence of his slur usage earlier this year. Also, CMs Nelson and Ramlawi are not being reappointed to the Council Rules Committee as a consequence of their potential violation of closed session confidentiality. So, you can expect a lot of speeches during DC-2. DC-3 is the resolution to order a ballot question for charter amendment for a community climate action millage. DC-4 is a resolution of internet specifying how the millage funds should be used. DC-5 is a resolution directing the Administrator to develop criteria to utilize low embodied carbon building materials in building and infrastructure projects. And finally, DC-6 a resolution asking the DDA to continue the curb side carryout program. 

And that's it, I think. As always, gentle reader, I am probably forgetting some very important items here. What agenda items are you most looking forward to seeing. I am guessing that tonight will be another late night around the virtual council table. Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2Council hashtag.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: November 15, 2021



Happy #a2Council night to all those who celebrate. Here's tonight's agenda and the A2AF episode about the meeting. 

The evening kicks off with a short, nine-item consent agenda. Of note, CA-9 litigation services, for an appellate case defending the city's stormwater fees. 

There are three public hearings on the docket tonight. PH-1/B-1 is a township island rezoning. PH-2/B-2 is on the Sanitation Supplies in Public Restroom ordinance. PH-3/DB-1 is on the site plan for Grace Bible Church at 1300 South Maple. 

There are two ordinance first readings tonight. C-1 is an ordinance to rezone ~33 acres at 3002 Chelsea Circle from R3 (townhouse) to RB4 (multi-family dwelling). I don't know a ton about this, but it's coming with full recommendation from Planning Commission. C-2 is an ordinance to amend the Dominick's PUD. This is coming with Planning Commission unanimously recommended rejecting the change. 

Finally we have DC-1 which is a resolution to allow certain boards and commissions to continue to meet electronically. 

As always, gentle reader, I am probably forgetting some very important items here. What agenda items are you most looking forward to seeing. I am guessing that tonight will be another late night around the virtual council table. Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2Council hashtag.


Monday, November 1, 2021

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: November 1, 2021




 

Tonight is the first #a2Council meeting of November. Hurray. Here's the agenda and here's the A2AF about the meeting. There's a nice dive into the Sustainable Energy Utility report, INT-2.  

The evening kicks off with a short, seven-item consent agenda. CAs 3 three through 5 are accepting grants from the MI Supreme Court for Veterans, Drug, and Mental Health courts. 

There is one public hearing on the docket tonight. PH-1/B-1 is on ward reapportionment. 

There are no ordinance first readings tonight and just two resolutions. DC-1 is a resolution to opposed Secure MI Vote, which is the current voter access restriction petition. DC-2 is a resolution to approve hiring Atleen Kaur as city attorney. 

It looks like a short agenda, but will it be a short meeting? As always, gentle reader, I am probably forgetting some very important items here. What agenda items are you most looking forward to seeing. I am guessing that tonight will be another late night around the virtual council table. Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2Council hashtag.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: October 18, 2021

 


Gentle readers, tonight is the final, spooktacular #a2council meeting of October. Check out the agenda here. You should also listen to the latest episode of A2AF. They go into depth about some really important items on the agenda today. 

The evening kicks off with a 11 item consent agenda. CA-3 is really exciting. This is the resolution for professional services to to develop the Moving Together Towards Vision Zero plan and associated engineering services. Again, you should really listen to the A2AF episode for a deep dive into this agenda item. Council has previously voted to support vision zero unanimously, but tonight is where the rubber hits the road, so to speak. For some reason this needs 8 votes, so there is a chance for shenanigans. 

There are three public hearings on the agenda tonight. PH-1/B-1 is a zoning change on permitted uses in the C2B district. PH-2/B-2 is the second reading on the energy benchmarking ordinance. PH-3/DB-1 is on the site plan, wetland use agreement, and development agreement for Concord Pines at 660 Earhart Road. Honestly, this development is a little two low density for me, and I'd love some sort of a walking path that would make it easier to cut out of this subdivision towards the bus stop on Geddes. 

There are three ordinance first readings on the agenda tonight. C-1 is on a township island rezoning. C-2 is on a new ordinance that would specify the types of sanitary products needed in all public restrooms. This would require menstrual products in all restrooms. C-3 is on ward reapportionment. With new census data comes new ward boundaries. It seems like most of the changes are minor and concentrated in or near downtown. 


Elsewhere on the agenda we have DC-1, the E. Medical Center Drive Bridge Design Contract. This is kind of a cluster. The bridge is in need of repair. Which, sure, let's fix that. But UM wants to add an additional lane. This is a bad idea. It makes this area, which already has a disproportionate number of drivers hitting pedestrians, even less safe. My understanding is that it's the city's policy to add non-motorized infrastructure when fixing roads. Strangely though, UM and the City's proposal to leave needed non-motorized infrastructure for a later date. This is just super frustrating. The council has voted unanimously to adopt vision zero practices and declared a climate emergency. It is unbelievable that the current version of DC-1 pretends like there is no vision zero plan and no climate emergency. Solutions that I would find acceptable are: fixing the bridge but not adding a new car lane; fixing the bridge, adding a new car lane, and pedestrian infrastructure; or fixing the bridge, NOT adding a car lane, and adding pedestrian infrastructure. The later is my preferred solution. 

Finally we have DC-2 a resolution to direct public engagement and final recommendation for the use of American Recovery Plan funds. There is some good stuff in here like adding a UBI pilot and an unarmed responders. 

As always, gentle reader, I am probably forgetting some very important items here. What agenda items are you most looking forward to seeing. I am guessing that tonight will be another late night around the virtual council table. Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2Council hashtag.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: October 4, 2021


 

Gentle readers, are you ready for a spooktacular #a2Council? Here's the agenda for tonight's meeting and here's the A2AF podcast about the meeting

The evening kicks off with a brief, 10-item consent agenda. Highlights include CA-5, a new sewer lining for the sewer in the Arb, and CA-10, licenses for the new social district. 

There are no public hearings and one ordinance first reading. C-1 is an ordinance to add a new chapter on energy benchmarking to the city code. If you want to know more about this, you should listen to the A2AF episode. 

DC-1 is a resolution that would let public speakers continue to call in once council goes back to in person. DC-5 is a late breaking item pertaining to putting the interim administrator on leave due to vague allegations against him from the new head of HR.

As always, gentle reader, I am probably forgetting some very important items here. What agenda items are you most looking forward to seeing. I am guessing that tonight will be another late night around the virtual council table. Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2Council hashtag.