Friday, August 23, 2019

YpsiFest this weekend in Riverside Park

YpsiFest starts tonight. This is one of our counties more eclectic events and well worth your time. There will even be sheep there from project mow.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: August 19, 2019

Gentle readers, it's #a2council Night in Ann Arbor. Here's the agenda for tonight's meeting.

This is coming pretty late, so I am going to hit the highlights. PH-2/B-1 and PH-3/DB-1 are on the proposed project for 325 E Summit, the Garnet. This looks like a cool project, but I am hearing reports that several councilmembers indicated they would vote against it at last night's caucus night.

In other development related agenda items, C-1 is the first reading of a modification of the Glen PUD. This project is located at 201, 213, 215, 217 Glen Avenue and 1025 East Ann Street.

DC-1 is a motion by CM Ackerman to reconsider the vote at last council meeting that defeated the Green Road road reconfiguration (road diet). Here's the preview for that meeting. Here's an article looking at how local road diets have been effective at reducing accidents.

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, August 6, 2019

Vote today

Gentle readers there is an election in Washtenaw County today. The question is whether the Washtenaw Intermediate School District borrow up to $53,295,000 in bonds to build a new school. To pay for the bonds, there would be a 0.37 mil property tax for 10 years. This means homeowners would pay $0.37 for every $1,000 in taxable value of their properties.

If you want my two cents. I think this is a good millage. We underfund our schools at a state level. I think it's important to do what we can at the local level to support public education.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: August 5, 2019

Gentle reader, August's first #a2council meeting is tonight at 7pm at City Hall. Here's the agenda.

The evening kicks off with a modest 15 item consent agenda which has a conspicuous lack of street closings. CA-6 is to rent a Vactor 2100i Combination Sewer Cleaner. CA-8 is to approve a grant agreement with MiEGLE for PFAS removal.

There is one public hearing on the docket tonight. PH-1/DB-1 is an annexation of 614 Riverview from Ann Arbor Township. In the ordinance first readings, C-1 would allow restaurants, bars, and/or food service in areas zoned office provided they are no more than 10% of the total floor area or 12,000 square feet.

In new council business there are two FOIA related resolutions. DC-2 directs the City Administrator to review the city's policies on assessing fees for FOIA requests. Specifically it requests alternatives to ease public interest FOIAs. DC-3is a resolution to waive fees associated with FOIA request 2147. CM Hayner submitted FOIA 2147 on July 11 of this year and requested all emails to and from Mayor Taylor for the period between June 16 to July 8, 2019. The city clerk estimated the cost to be $217 to comply with the records request. Here's the city's list of FOIA requests.

There are three road diets on tonight's #a2council agenda: DS-1, DS-2, and DS-3 for Earhart, Traverwood, and Green, respectively. I wrote a bit more about road diets last week. All of these road reconfigurations (their proper name) came before council earlier this year, but were sent back to transportation commission. All of these roads have average daily traffic volumes between 3,500 and 7,500 vehicles per day, meaning these proposals are unlikely to have a substantial impact on traffic. Federal Highway Administration guidelines caution against road diets when traffic flow is greater than 20,000 vehicles per day. These reconfigurations are predicted to lead to a major reduction in crashes like we have seen with other road diets in Ann Arbor. These resolutions will likely be the spiciest chilis of the night.

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.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Road diets

A satellite photo of Jackson Ave. during its reconfiguration. If you look closely, you can see the ghostly shadows of orange barrels.  

Gentle readers. I want to write a little bit about road diets. There are three road diets on Monday's #a2council agenda: DS-1, DS-2, and DS-3. A road diet, sometimes called a road reconfiguration, is when the total number of travel lanes on a road are reduced to allow for other uses and travel modes. E.g. a 4 lane road is reduced to a 3 lane road. This frees up space to add bike lanes and to add features that make pedestrians safer. Road diets also make roads safer for drivers by reducing the number of crashes on a road segment. If you are interested in a deep dive, the Federal Highway Association has a great 72 page report on road diets.

Ann Arbor has implemented several road diets in the past few years including on Jackson Road and Maple Road. On July 16th, a memo examining recent road diets was sent to the Transportation Commission. It too, is worth a read. Looking at 5 recent road diets, total accident counts dropped between 20% and 65%. Here are charts looking at specific crash rates from the Jackson Road project and the Green Road project:

The Green Road Road diet is one of the poorest performing and I wanted to highlight it because it still shows an overall reduction in the average number of crashes.

Road diets also offer great benefits to pedestrians and cyclists. By adding more room for them, and buffering them from cars, road diets increase safety for non-motorized transit. They also tend to increase usage. You can find more in this document from the Federal Highway Administration in section 2.1.3.

One drawback for road diets is that is that they can slow down traffic during peak flow periods. A recent survey of Ann Arbor residents showed that the majority support these minor reductions in traffic flow in exchange for greater safety for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. Here are the results:

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Election 2020: Lisa Disch launches bid for Ward 1 #a2Council seat

U of M Political Science Professor, Lisa Disch, has announced that she is running for the Ward 1 Ann Arbor City Council seat currently held by Anne Bannister. Disch is running as a progressive and lists 5 main priorities: urban stewardship, affordable housing, environmental stewardship, safety, and small "d" democracy. The Ward 1 seat represents Ann Arbor's Northside and is currently held by Anne Bannister. Bannister's campaign website is currently not working. Assuming Bannister runs for reelection, she and Disch would face off in the August 2020 primary.

UPDATE: I reached out to Disch and asked her why she is running for council. Here is what she said:

I'm running for Council because I believe that Ann Arbor is at a turning point. Over this past year, I watched Council vote against projects on affordable housing for seniors, on making our most trafficked streets safer for bicyclists that had been carefully vetted by the appropriate commissions and approved by city staff. I feel as though I am seeing a politicization of common sense in local politics that mimics some of what I am confident most Ann Arborites dislike most about national politics. As an economic engine for Southeast Michigan, Ann Arbor cannot afford to lag far behind Washtenaw County in population growth. But we do! And this means that we face more commuters, more traffic, unsustainable carbon emissions, and the possibility of irreversible economic stratification. Currently, our skyrocketing housing market prices out many people who ought to be able to live here if they choose to: people who teach in our K-12 schools, our firefighters, police officers, and the young people whose creativity and entrepreneurship keep Ann Arbor interesting. The upcoming Master Planning process gives us an opportunity to change course but we are going to need a change of leadership to make that happen. I want to be part of that change. I have lived in Ann Arbor's First Ward since 2008 and I feel lucky to have put down roots in a community where people set high standards for political awareness and engagement. I hope to tap that grassroots energy in my campaign and focus it on the master planning process and beyond.

Previously:

  • Election 2020: Beto in Greektown
  • Tuesday, July 30, 2019

    Election 2020: Beto in Greektown

    Former US Senate Candidate and Current US Presidential Candidate, Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke stands on a street in Greektown, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Photo By Benjamin C. Houston.

    At approximately 1:26 this afternoon, Damn Arbor's senior staff attorney, Benjamin C. Houston, sent me the above picture. It is of US Presidential Candidate Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke. He appears be standing on the sidewalk across the street from a Cold Stone Creamery and a Five Guys. This places him at approximately 511 Monroe St. According to Houston, O'Rourke was "probably eating."

    Stay tuned to Damn Arbor for more breathless dispatches from the campaign trail.

    Monday, July 29, 2019

    Pedestrian Safety Meeting tonight at Ann Arbor City Hall

    A pedestrian crosses at a crosswalk with an RRFB. Photo by Erich Z.

    Tonight at 7 pm there is a Pedestrian Safety Meeting at City Hall. Here's the agenda. From 7-7:30 there will be an informal poster presentation session in which all are welcome to present. At 7:30 City Administrator Howard Lazarus will present on:

  • · Exploring Vision Zero Principles, including trend analysis and data-driven decision making
  • · Learning from successes in Ann Arbor and other communities
  • · Formulating policies for immediately improving pedestrian safety
  • · Setting future agendas
  • At 8:15 there will be a Q & A and at 8:45 there will be Public Commentary General Time. If you have strong feelings on pedestrian safety, please come and share your thoughts tonight.

    Previously:

  • Zero Vision: Ann Arbor's Promotion of Driver Convenience Over Pedestrian Safety
  • Friday, July 19, 2019

    Art Fair Bingo, a retrospective

    2004 Art Fair Bingo via https://osric.com/bingo/

    According to osric.com/bingo, the authoritative source of Art Fair Bingo history, the game goes back to at least 1999. That said, some folks online have a distinct memory of Art Fair Bingo in 1998. The 1999 version is credited to the Tanya of the Blast-Off Girls, a WCBN show. The earliest digital versions I have been able to find are 2004 (above) and 2005 (below).

    The most recent version of Art Fair Bingo that I have been able to find is the 2017 edition by Umich grad, RJ Cron.

    We also have an undated Art Fair Bingo card that appears to be from the late aughts:

    If anybody has other Art Fair Bingo Cards, please share them. There are digital traces of a 2007 edition I would love to see. And of course, if someone has a copy of the 1999 or 1998 cards, that would be awesome.

    Monday, July 15, 2019

    Ann Arbor City Council Preview: July 15, 2019

    Damn Arbor logo by Jon Wilcox

    Gentle reader, it's Council Night in Ann Arbor. Here's the agenda for all you #a2council-heads out there. There is some good stuff on the docket tonight including several sidewalk assessments and a potential mayoral veto override. Let's take a look, shall we?

    The agenda kicks off with an 18 item consent agenda. CA-8, Barton Dr. Sidewalk Special Assessment Resolution 1, is the first sidewalk item of the evening. Of late, lots of sidewalk items have been pulled from the agenda, so if I were a betting man, I would guess this might get pulled tonight. This item would appropriate $25,000 from the General Fund Balance for staff to prepare plans, specifications, and cost estimates to fill sidewalk gaps along the north side of Barton Drive from M-14 ramp to Starwick Drive.

    After the consent agenda we have 4 public hearings. PH-1 is on the second reading of the ordinance to amend the city's rules for purchasing, contracting, and selling. PH-2 is resolution no. 4 confirming a single lot assessment for a sidewalk along the south side of Argo Drive. The Property at 1425 Pontiac Trail would be assessed. The owners of the property are arguing they should not be assessed for the sidewalk. PH-3 is resolution no. 4 for a sidewalk special assessment for properties along the south side of Scio Church between 7th and Main. PH-4 is resolution no. 4 to establish a Special Assessment District for the Dhu Varren Sidewalk Improvements Project. See, lots on sidewalks.

    In the ordinance first readings, C-1 is a conditional rezoning of 325 E Summit from C1B (Community Convenience Center District) to C1A (Campus Business District). This is to allow for a 4 story apartment building called The Garnet.

    The spiciest chili pepper on tonight's agenda is DC-3, a resolution to override the Mayor's veto of r-19-325, which would have put charter amendment before voters to change Ann Arbor's elections to non-partisian.

    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.