Friday, April 19, 2019

Best of Ottawa Animation Festival tonight at Riverside Art Center in Ypsi

Local Filmmakers, Martin Thoburn and Donald Harrison, are bringing the acclaimed best in show from the acclaimed Ottawa Animation Festival to Ypsilanti's Riverside Art Center tonight. These are some of the best animated shorts in the world. Tickets are $5 in advance or $7 at the door. The event starts at 8 pm. You can buy tickets, and find out more here.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: April 15th 2019

Gentle readers, get ready for another long #a2council meeting tonight. The action kicks off at 6:00 with a special session to amend the Employment Agreement for City Administrator Howard S. Lazarus. The amendment would give Lazerus a 2.4% raise in line with the 2.4% inflation rate in the US last year.

The main meeting starts at 7:00. Here's the agenda. Things get started with an unprecedented 41 item consent agenda. CA-1 through CA-13 are street closures for various festivals and races. It will be interesting to see which items are pulled out of the agenda.

There are 4 public hearings on the docket tonight. PH-1/B1 and PH-2/B2 deal with two proposed downzonings. PH-3/DB-1 is for the annexation of a township island on Newport Road. PH-4/DB-2 is about the site plan for 327 E. Hoover. This is the old Purchase Radio building and the proposal is for a 4 story apartment building with 6 units and retail on the first floor. This is coming to council with a recommendation of unanimous approval from the Planning Commission.

On to ordinance first readings! C-1 and C-2 are annexations of township islands. C-3, C-4, and C-5 are on water, sewer, and stormwater rates respectively. Given the row over the new water rate structure, C-3 might see CMs jockeying a bit.

On to the spiciest issues of the night. DC-3 is an override of the Mayor Taylor's veto from two weeks ago. It is unlikely this will get the 8 votes it needs to pass. Nevertheless, you can expect CMs to take this opportunity to air their arguments.

DC-5 would revert residential water rates to a three tierd structure from the recently adopted four tier structure. Essentially this would reduce the rate for the households that use the most water and increase the rate for those that use less. You can read more about the 4 tiered structure here. The water rate restructuring has been pretty controversial. In my understanding to get into the top tier of the 4 tier system, you would need to be filling a swimming pool or watering your lawn regularly. Taking water that has been rendered safe for human consumption, and then dumping it on the ground in large quantities is not a good use of resources. We should price our water so that the volume needed for daily living is inexpensive (or free) while larger volumes reflect the cost of this precious resource /soapbox.

Finally, we have DS-1 a resolution to establish a public hearing for the Northside Steam Safe Routes to School Sidewalk Gap Special Assessment. This item was pulled off the consent agenda at the April 1st meeting. There is a lot of pushback from the people who would have sidewalks built in front of their houses and thus would be assessed for the construction of said sidewalks. At stake is $400,000 in grant money for funding the sidewalks. It will be interesting to hear the sides of this debate.

Elsewhere in the agenda, there is a potential rebirth of the Water Hill MusicFest (DC-4). Gentle reader, what items are you most excited for?

Make sure you tune in tonight at 6 and at 7 to watch CTN's live stream and follow the blow-by-blow action on #a2council hashtag on Twitter.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Gallery opening tonight at the Ann Arbor Art Center

Embodied: An Exhibition of Works by Tattooers and the Tattooed opens tonight at the Ann Arbor Art Center tonight. The exhibition is curated by Ann Arbor tattooist Jen Munford. The show opens tonight with a reception from 6-9pm at the Ann Arbor Art Center on the 2nd floor in the 117 Gallery. So if you are already downtown for FoolMoon, why not stop in? Embodied runs runs through May 4th.

Ypsilanti First Fridays kickoff tonight

Tonight is the first First Friday of 2019 in Ypsilanti. Check out the map here. There are several art exhibits and live bands. These events are always a great time, so if you haven't been to Ypsi for a while, why not stop by.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: April 1st 2019

Tonight is the first #a2council meeting of April. Here's the agenda.

The Consent Agenda is 14 items deep and includes 2 street closures. There is also an agreement to ratify the bikeshare program with the AAATA. CA-14 establishes a public hearing on May 6th for the Northside School Safe Routes to School sidewalk gap program.

There is one Public Hearing tonight. PH-1 (also B-1) is on an ordinance that would ban 2-stroke gas motors in the DDA boundary. Sorry classic Saab owners, looks like city council is gunning for you. Just kidding though, this only applies to power tools.

DC-3 is a potentially spicy item. This is related to how to spend the Community Mental Health and Public Safety Millage rebate.

Another spicy agenda item is DC-6. This resolution would direct the city administrator to seek council approval before implementing road diets.

Gentle reader, what are you most looking forward to at tonight's #a2council meeting? Make sure you tune in tonight at 7 to watch CTN's live stream and follow the blow-by-blow action on #a2council hashtag on Twitter.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

57th Ann Arbor Film Festival kicks off tonight

57th Ann Arbor Film Festival Trailer AAFF, Ryan Leonard from Ann Arbor Film Festival on Vimeo.

The Ann Arbor Film Festival is one of our community's gems. I love it because I get to see films that I would never see anywhere else. Every year the festival broadens my idea of what film is, and I think that's great.

The 57th Ann Arbor Film Festival starts tonight with an Opening Gala at the Michigan Theater at 6:30 and the first batch of films in competition starts at 8:15. The AAFF runs through Sunday with events all over Ann Arbor. Here's the full schedule. I am especially interested in the Penny Stamps/AAFF joint presentation on Meow Wolf on Thursday at 5:10.

Gentle reader, I strongly encourage you to check out at least one Film Festival event. I think you will truly enjoy it.

Sneak Preview - 57th Ann Arbor Film Festival from Ann Arbor Film Festival on Vimeo.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: March 18th, 2018

Buckle up, gentle reader, tonight's #a2council meeting promises to be a spicy one. Here's the agenda.

The evening kicks off with a 16 item Consent Agenda. Highlights therein include 4 street closures for festivals as well as a Greenbelt purchase. In the past Greenbelt purchases have been pretty routine, but recently they have been somewhat more controversial. I would not be surprised if this item gets pulled from the consent agenda.

There are 4 public hearings on tonight's agenda. PH-1 and PH-2 deal with the Mallets Wood PUD which would rezone 3.77 acres at 3300 Cardinal Ave. from single family residential to Planned Unit Development (PUD). PH-3 is a township island annexation. I have not been following either of these proposals very diligently. I know there has been some recent opposition to annexation by people who live in township islands. Still I wouldn't be surprised if there are not a ton of speakers during these public hearings.

PH-4 is tonight's spiciest chili. This public hearing is for the Lockwood of Ann Arbor PUD. This project is located at 3365 Jackson Road. It would rezone 3.52 acres from single family residential to PUD in order to build a 95 unit senior independent living facility. 40% of the units would be affordable units for a period of 99 years. Supporters and detractors of this rezoning are expected to turn out lots of folks for this public hearing so make sure you have your popcorn ready. I expect this will be a long public hearing and that council's discussion of the ordinance (C-2) will also be pretty long and heated.

There are a couple of other interesting items on the agenda tonight. C-2 and C-3 are downzonings, which we haven't seen come before council in a long time. C-2 rezones 0.6 acres from C2B (Business Service District) to R2A (Two-Family Dwelling District) in the 600 block of South Ashley. Planning commission has unanimously recommended denial of this ordinance. C-3 rezones 58 lots from R4C (Multiple-Family Dwelling District) to R1D (Single Family Dwelling District) and 4 Lots from R4C (Multiple-Family Dwelling District) to R1E (Single Family Dwelling District) in the West Hoover/West Davis area. Planning Commission recommended denial of this rezoning 5 to 3. It will be interesting to see how the council factions debate these downzonings.

Elsewhere in the agenda, CM Ackerman is introducing 3 resolutions aimed at provisioning affordable housing: DC-4, DC-5, and DC-6. There is also a resolution to study the regulation of short-term rentals: DC-7.

Gentle reader, what are you most looking forward to at tonight's #a2council meeting? Make sure you tune in tonight at 7 to watch CTN's live stream and follow the blow-by-blow action on #a2council hashtag on Twitter.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Guest Article: Revisiting Water Rates in Ann Arbor

Ed: form time to time, we publish Guest Articles. This piece is by Erich Z., who has been diligently following the debate in Ann Arbor about the changes in the structure of water rates.

A sink in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Last week, the city received a second consultant’s opinion on Ann Arbor’s water rates. Arcadis Consulting’s report’s findings are largely consistent with conclusions reached by Stantec Consulting Services in 2017. This report suggested Ann Arbor introduce a tiered rate system where residential customers who use large amounts of water would pay a higher rate per 100 cubic foot (CCF) of water. The city adopted its current rate and tier structure in 2018. The new rates have been a hot topic, with resident confusion and anger helping to fuel a new balance of power in the wake of city elections late last year. The new council majority has contracted with both Stantec and Arcadis for a reappraisal of the water datagathered by Stantec.

A Gallon is a Gallon, right?

Reviewing the 2018 report by Stantec Consulting, the justification for a tiered rate system is that water rates should be tied to the actual cost of service. In 1998, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that fees must be proportionate to the costs of providing a service, otherwise they are considered taxes, and can violate the Headlee Amendment. The cost of a water system is mostly determined by its peak usage, so users whose needs do not fluctuate throughout the year do not cost nearly as much to serve as those those usage spikes. Peak use occurs in July for Ann Arbor, mostly due to a relatively small number of residential customers watering lawns and irrigating gardens. The presentation showed residential meters paid 12% less than the cost of service, while multi-family meters were paying about 30% more than their cost of service. In a move to make rates more fair and equitable, the council voted to change the water rates, most controversially to a four-tier system for single-family residential customers.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Biology on Tap tomorrow night at Corner Brewery

Gentle readers, a former colleague of mine, Dan Katz, is giving a talk on pollen heterogeneity in urban areas tomorrow night at Corner Brewery. If you or someone you know suffer from pollen allergies, this Dan's presentation will answer the question: "Can I avoid pollen hotspots during allergy season." You won't want to miss it. There will also be presentations by Emily Grman on prairie restoration and Lauren Schmitt on coffee agro-ecosystems.

The Biology on Tap event is tomorrow, March 12th, and starts at 7:30. There is no cover.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Paczki Guide 2019

Workers at Copernicus Deli load Paczki into boxes, Fat Tuesday, 2012. Unfortunately, Copernicus is no longer open.

It's Fat Tuesday. That means you need to eat a paczek. Of course, if you want the real experience, you should already be in line at the New Martha Washington Bakery in Hamtramck. If you are looking for paczki a little closer to home here are some suggestions:

Dom Bakeries - Everyone in Ypsi is getting their paczki at Doms.

Dimos - On Stadium in Ann Arbor. Dimos is a popular donut shop with lots of loyal fans.

The Lunch Room - If you want vegan paczki, you will have to wait until next year. The Lunch Room sold out of preorders yesterday.

Zingerman's Bakehouse - They expect to run out, so show up early.

Argus Farm Stop - I have it on good authority they are stocking my favorite flavor, prune, form Crust Bakery in Fenton.

Gentle reader, are you indulging in paczki today? Where are you procuring yours from?