Monday, October 15, 2018

Ann Arbor City Council Preview for Oct. 15, 2018, or Duck yes: City poised to legalize backyard waterfowl

An image of a duck from the Damn Arbor Photo Archive.

Gentle readers, the days when you had to dress your majestic backyard ducks as common chicken may be drawing to a close. That's right, the City Council is poised to legalize backyard ducks. Looking at the agenda for tonight, the first reading of the Duck Ordinance (C-1) may be one of the lest controversial items on the agenda.

The #a2council agenda starts off with a stacked consent agenda docket with 24 items. Of note, there are 4 sanitary sewer easements on the Consent Agenda tonight. Two of tonight's public hearings (PH-1 and PH-2) are on the annexation of Township Islands. This issue has been contentious at recent #a2council meetings. When the city annexes a township parcel there can be an increase in taxes of $1k to $3k per year and fees of up to $100k for sewer and water connectivity. You can read more about the township annexation program here.

There are a couple of other especially spicy items on tonight's agenda. First, PH-4/B-2, the Mayor's Police Oversight Ordinance, has not been received well by members of the Police Oversight Commission Taskforce and by those who seek robust civilian oversight of the police.

The other spicy item on the agenda is DC-4, is a resolution to approve a Deed with Core Spaces for the Library Lot. Whoa. This will pit the faction of the city council that are in support of the development agains those that would rather see the Library Lot undeveloped.

Gentle reader, what are you most looking forward to at tonight's #a2council meeting? We are well into campaign season so there may be some political fireworks. 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, October 9, 2018

Today is the last day to Register for November Election

Gentle reader, this coming election is very important. I cannot emphasize how important it is for you to vote. Today is the last day to register to vote, or update your registration for the November election. You can check your voter registration here. In celebration of this monuments day, our friends at 7 Cylinders Studio in conjunction with Washtenaw County have released the 4th video in their how to vote series. Check it out, then make sure your registration is up to date.

Friday, October 5, 2018

A map of the proposed Food Truck Exclusion Zone

A map of Ann Arbor's proposed Food Truck Exclusion Zone by @SassArbor. In this map, the Food Truck Exclusion Zone is indicated by the color white. 

Gentle readers, local hero @SassArbor has done what the government is scared to do. Blogging under the nom de guerre, A2 Civic Tech, @SassArbor has produced a map showing the Food Truck Exclusion Zone that would be created by the Food Truck Ordinance. The vast swaths of Ann Arbor that make up the Food Truck Exclusion Zone are shown in white on the map above. This is what the government doesn't want you to see.

Sass's analysis is through, and their methodology is very well documented. My only fear is that the map may not accurately depict the size of the Food Truck Exclusion Zone. Section 8 in the proposed ordnance reads:

There shall be a minimum 200-foot separation from any residential use or residentially zoned district. ...
I interpret this to mean that food trucks would be forbidden not just within 200 feet of residential properties, but also PUDs or Commercially-zoned areas that have residential units. So if anything, Sass's efforts underestimate the size of the Exclusion Zone.

You should really check out A2 Civic Tech and read the whole analysis and see all the maps. As a little teaser, here's a map that really captures the 200 foot residential buffer on the Food Truck Exclusion Zone. The map shows South State Street and South Industrial. The top most horizontal road is Henry St.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

One week left to register to vote in November Election

Gentle reader, there will be so many important things on the November ballot that I don't have time to list them. Here are some highlights, though: local elections, legalizing cannabis, and ending gerrymandering. You need to vote. You have just to make sure you're registered. Fortunately our friends at 7 Cylinders have partnered with Washtenaw County to produce videos on how to get yourself registered.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Fall River Day this Sunday in Ypsilanti

The Ypsilanti Parks and Recreation Commission's annual Fall River Day is this Sunday in Riverside Park and Frog Island Park. Full disclosure, I am on the Ypsilanti Parks and Recreation Commission, so this might just be shameless self-promotion. If you've never been, Fall River Day is awesome. Ann Arbor Parks and Rec will be bringing kayaks and you will be able to rent and launch them at Frog Island Park. If you don't have your own kayak or canoe, this will be one of the few chances you will have to paddle on this stretch of the Huron River. There will also be birds of prey, nature walks, games for kids, cider, and donuts. It looks like it'll be a beautiful fall day too, so you really have no excuse to miss it. Bonus: if you do come, make sure to stop by the kayak rental station where I will be helping launch boats.

Friday, September 14, 2018

They are coming for your food trucks

Ricewood BBQ on opening day, 2016. Photo by Ed Vielmetti.

Gentle reader, the City is on a real tear. First they passed their bogus, and likely illegal, Flag and Seal ordinance. Then, they stole all the Bird Scooters. Now they are coming after the food trucks. Local food truck patron, Ed Vielmetti, came across this proposed ordinance regulating food trucks that will make its way to the Ordinance Review Committee of the Planning Commission on 9/25. In its current form, this ordinance would essentially eliminate food trucks in most of the city.

Here are some highlights:

(1) The mobile food vending service shall not be located in any required setback, any sight distance triangle, or required buffer. Mobile food vendors may be allowed in any office (O) commercial and industrial districts and the parking district. Mobile food vendors shall be prohibited in any residential district and the D1 and D2 districts.

...

(8) There shall be a minimum 200-foot separation from any residential use or residentially zoned district. This measurement shall be taken from the property line to property line at the closest point.

So basically the ordinance would only allow food trucks (and food carts) in areas zoned Office, Commercial, Industrial or Parking, but only in places that are more than 200ft from a residential area. This means goodbye to our beloved Ricewood in its current location. More importantly, it would ban food trucks in most Office, Commercial, Industrial, and Parking zoned parcels. Gentle reader, I have not heard a lot of complaints about food trucks, have you? I asked a concerned citizen about this potential ordinance and they shared this with me "I’ve never once heard someone say they’re glad there are no food trucks downtown, and literally hundreds of pleas for them to be there." Here's my question, where is this push to restrict food trucks coming from?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Opinion: Show up tonight to support strong police oversight in Ann Arbor

Tonight at 7:00 at Ann Arbor City Hall there is a joint meeting of the Police Oversight Task Force and City Council Work Session. At the meeting, the Task Force will be presenting a ordinance that would create a strong, independent Police Oversight Commission. Some highlights of the Task Force ordinance:

Functional independence: Current and former law enforcement will not be eligible for membership on the Commission (though they can be invited to act as consultants when needed) and the Commission will be able to hire independent counsel.

Adequate funding: The Task Force requested that at an amount equal to 1.17% of the AAPD’s annual budget (or approximately $327,000) be set aside for oversight.

Representative of the community: As written, the draft includes a participatory nomination process through the Human Rights Commission which focuses on racial, economic, and experiential diversity to ensure that people most impacted by policing and people with the skills to address policing are represented.

Power: As written in the draft ordinance, the proposed Commission will be empowered to issue subpoenas and participate in arbitration when needed to compel the police and the City to provide information to the Commission.

Access to data: The proposal gives the Commission broad access to data about policing in Ann Arbor, data that can be used to shape policy changes and develop programs for the police, the city, and community members to address disparities in use of force and enforcement, and develop alternative forms of resolving conflicts.

City administrator Howard Lazarus is also presenting an competing ordinance that would create a weak, non-independent Police Oversight Commission. Here are some highlights from his proposed ordinance:
Not independent: former law enforcement officers can be members, and police and the City Administrator will be more involved in the process

Not well-funded: less than $25,000 to start

Not empowered: it has no power to act on its own

Not representative: members will be chosen by the Mayor (vs. the Human Rights Commission)

If you want strong, independent oversight of the Ann Arbor Police Department, please come to City Hall tonight and show your support. Amber Hughson, a community member who has been following the Police Oversight Task Force encourages folks to show up to tonight's meeting: "Showing up tonight at the City Council work session, and the public meetings that follow, is key to supporting oversight of the police. City Council needs to see that community members want community oversight of the police that is functionally independent, especially oversight that ensures people can file confidential complaints about the harm they've experienced." I reached out to Julie Quiroz who is an organizer with Transforming Justice Washtenaw for a comment about tonight's meeting and here's what she shared with me:
"In its entire 194 year history Ann Arbor has never had community oversight of police. Since the 1970s Ann Arbor's black community has been working for community police oversight. In 2014, when AAPD shot and killed Aura Rosser, a long history of community outrage erupted again, which moved leaders like Dwight Wilson on the Human Rights Commission to take real steps toward an actual policy. Thanks to this long history of organizing, and the more recent work of so many groups and individuals, we now have a strong proposal from the community-led Task Force.

Right now we can really stand up for something. By supporting the Task Force recommendations Ann Arbor has the opportunity to do something that matters in real people's lives, that puts racial justice values into practice, and that serves as a model for the country. What do we want our city to do? What do we want our city to be? It's time for us to make sure the Mayor and City Council know."

At tonight's meeting there will be parent volunteers on hand to provide free childcare. Also, the Huron Valley Democratic Socialists of America are providing transportation for those who need it. If you need transportation, drop HVDSA a line at: huronvalleydsa@gmail.com. So if you support strong police oversight, come out tonight and show your support.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Where have the Birds gone?

A flock of 11 Bird Scooters at the City's DPW lot

It looks like we have a real Silent Spring situation on our hands. Yesterday afternoon, local Twitter user, @jhritz noticed a large flock of Bird Scooters on the far South Side of Ann Arbor in the city's public works lot. Immediately there was speculation: were city workers commuting using these electric scooters?

@jhritz took it upon himself to investigate. Using the map from the Bird Scooter App, he was able to locate the 11 scooters. They were locked in the back of a city trailer:

It seems like the city has been scooping up Bird Scooters. I imagine the ones that are not placed well after usage. Big shoutout to @jhritz for solving the mystery of the missing Bird Scooters.

Friday, September 7, 2018

First Friday and Festival of the Honey Bee tonight in Ypsi

Gentle reader, tonight is First Friday in Ypsi. It is also Festival of the Honey Bee, so Washington between Michigan and Pearl will be blocked off with bee related activities. Our friends at Bløm Meadworks will be partnering with Bona Sera and serving mead at an outdoor bar. It should be a fun evening. Also, it's a great opportunity to test the range of the new Bird Scooters. It's only 10 miles to Ypsi along the Border to Border Trail.

Bird Scooters have arrived in Ann Arbor

Bird Scooters on Liberty at Main

Bird scooters have landed in Ann Arbor. They were not here when I left work yesterday evening, but this morning there were small flocks of them in several places in town. Now, I have not yet seen anybody riding one in Ann Arbor yet. I was in Detroit last week for a show at the Opera House and saw several people using the scooters to get from far away parking to the Taylor Swift concert at Ford Field.

Let's talk specs: Bird uses the Xiaomi M365 Electric Scooter which has a top speed of 15 mph and a 15 mile range. They cost $1 to activate and then cost an additional $0.15 per minute. That means a long scoot from Ann Arbor to Ypsi along the Border to Border trial will set you back $7 to $10.

It'll be interesting to see what the reaction to the Bird Scooters is like in Ann Arbor. So far, they don't seem to be taking up much public space. Given how much cleaner and safer they are compared to cars, perhaps we could rent some on street parking to Bird. Gentle readers, have you ever ridden a Bird or a Lime scooter? What was your experience like?

Bird Scooters on N Ashley at Huron

UPDATE:

Here's a map of all the Birds: