Friday, January 31, 2014

Bob Dascola is running for Ann Arbor City Council, Third Ward

Bob Dascola is running for Ann Arbor City Council in the Third Ward in the 2014 campaign. His email to me was brief but to the point:
Hi Ed. Yes I am planning on running in the 3rd ward. I will send you more details very soon. Thanks for the e-mail.
Bob Dascola
Dascola has been a barber in Ann Arbor for over 40 years, and runs Dascola Barbers on S State St. His family has been in the barbering business in the city for a long time, and the Ann Arbor News "Old News" archive for him has entries back to 1956, when his father, barber Dominic Dascola, ran for the school board. (Bob was 10 then; Dom died in 2008.)

Are you ready for some Fútbol?

MGoBlog is reporting that there'll be a pre-season matchup between Manchester United and Real Madrid at the Big House this August.

"It's being reported that Manchester United and Real Madrid will play at the Big House on Saturday, August 2 at 4PM as part of the 2014 International Champions Cup.

Even though it will only be a preseason match, it'll be a great opportunity to see two of the world's biggest soccer clubs and some of the world's best players."

I feel like the winter classic shows we could handle an influx of hockey hosers as a community, but are we ready for soccer hooligans? Regardless, this will have a huge impact on the local economy. Hopefully we'll all be rolling in €'s and £'s. 

You should check out the comments on the MGoBlog article. One hypothesizes Dave Brandon's next move will to host the largest Westminster Dog Show ever. 

County Line at the Performance Network Theater

County Line will not be for everyone. It deals with darker subject matter than any play I have seen at the Performance Theater Network before. We watch as our heroine Lois is taken from her well meaning but dysfunctional father and put into the foster care system. This is the first of many tragedies to strike Lois. It seems undeserved, especially since her father is not abusive nor neglectful towards her.
All photos from Sean Carter Photo

City Council to vote on Edwards Brothers' Property at Feb. 3rd Meeting

As tradition dictates, there has been a last minute addition to the City Council's Feb. 3rd agenda. According to the Chronicle, a resolution to proceed with purchasing the 16.7 acre property for $12.8 million was added to the meeting agenda January 30th. From the article:

Discussion at the city council’s Sunday night caucus on Jan. 19 indicated that talks are taking place between the city and developers who might have an interest in purchasing the property from the city. One obstacle in those conversations is the fact that the university could still eventually exercise its right of eminent domain to acquire the property from a developer, even after purchasing it from the city. But that would require convincing a court that the expansion of the university’s athletic campus at that location would be in the public interest.
Gentle readers, what's your take on this? Do you think it would be smart for the city enter the real estate industry? I know Ann Arbor is different than Ypsilanti, but perhaps the Water Street property serves as a useful cautionary tale.


Should the City buy the Edwards Bros. Property?
Edwards Brothers Malloy and Shinola

Media review: February 2014 Ann Arbor Observer

The Ann Arbor Observer's February 2014 issue hit my mailbox yesterday. Here's what you'll find when you look through its 84 pages.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The dude behind the booze

XLR8R has a fun little article out about Todd Osborne's favorite places in Detroit and Ann Arbor, but it's really his favorite places around Ann Arbor and Ypsi, and one place in Detroit. Mentioned are Beezy's, The Last Word, The Blind Pig, Hello Records and The Ugly Mug. I was particularly happy to see The Last Word mentioned, as it is my favorite place in the verld. I was most impressed that The Osborne drink was named after him, which is of course superior to most gin drinks right off the bat because it's made with Hendrick's, but then finishes the job by having muddled japeleño AND pineapple in it. And lime juice. UGH how is it 9 am on a Thursday?

Next time I'm there, Last Word, I hope there's an Osborne waiting. And a "You're My Boy, Blue."

Here's to hoping, but come on this'll never work. YOU GUYS ARE SO COOL just be my friend.

Ann Arbor City Council preview for 3 February 2014

Hey! It's time to make sure you have an ample supply of popcorn and appropriate libations and a copy of the Ann Arbor City Council preview to get ready for the meeting of Monday, 3 February 2014.

As always, things can come and go from the agenda until the last possible moment. If you want the absolute latest from the original source, see Legistar, the city's public posting of meeting notices, agendas, and minutes for many (but not all) city boards and commissions as well as for all of City Council. The meeting details for 2/3/2014 are here.

A preview is also here from the Ann Arbor Chronicle, and sometimes the Ann Arbor News writes a pre-meeting story going into more details on some element of the meeting.

UPDATED: Friday with new information.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Water main megaspill, and sewer minispill, on S Industrial

From the city water utilities department, details about the water main break that closed South Industrial earlier this week. The spill was significant enough that you can see it on the USGS water gauge for Malletts Creek downstream.
Yesterday morning (Tuesday January 28, 2014) the freeze/thaw cycle that we are experiencing this winter caused a 16-inch water main to break on S. Industrial. The force of water from that break caused a private sanitary sewer lead to break as well. Water then flowed into the open sewer lead, flooding the sanitary sewer and forcing untreated sewage up through manhole covers, onto the street and into the storm water system. We’ve estimated that about 900 gallons of untreated but diluted (with 1,000,000 gallons of clean drinking water) sewage found its way into Malletts Creek.

A gallon of water costs about half a penny from a city tap, according to a handy city Water Matters newsletter from 2011.  A million gallons of water would run you a cool $5,000 at municipal rates. If instead you went to fancy bottled water and spilled a million gallons of Cap-10 from the local party store, at $1.39 a liter that would run you on the order of $5.26 million dollars worth of spillage (plus deposit and carbonation).

Extra bones for your Puppybowl/Superbowl par-tay

JSTOR is lookin' for people to come down to the Ann Arbor office tomorrow and Friday to test out some new ideas for the site - for moneyyyyyyy! Okay, so not a bajillion dollars, but $25 for 30 minutes is pretty good. It's at least enough to cover the amount of guacamole necessary to have a good time,* and with the Puppy/Superbowl this weekend, the importance of guac in our lives is about to go up tenfold.

Interested folks will have to fill out this survey in order to get set up and make sure they qualify, but that's pretty much it in terms of prep.

*Just to be clear, anything less than $25-worth of guacamole does indeed mean that you are NOT having a good time.

Where is Detroit's Williamsburg?

According to a very unscientific search of a Gawker Article's comments section, both Corktown and Midtown are Detroit's Williamsburg. Congratulations Hamtramck, you are now Bushwick. Here's how the voting broke down:

Perhaps this poll suffers from low turnout. Though more likely the problem is in the premise and the Brooklyn-centric world view it represents. Sure, there are hip folks in Detroit in addition to up-and-coming/up-and-came neighborhoods. But I don't think anywhere is really like Williamsburg.

Lunafest coming to Ann Arbor

LUNAFEST - 2013/2014 Season Trailer from Clif Bar & Company on Vimeo.

Lunafest, a short-film festival from the makers of Luna Bar, will be coming to the Lydia Mendalssohn on February 6th. The festival features films by, for and about women. The event is sponsored by University Students Against Rape. Tickets are $12 in advance ($10 for students) and $15 for everyone at the door. All the proceeds go to two great causes: 90% goes to University Students Against Rape, who do the annual Take Back The Night rally and march in Ann Arbor; the remainder goes to The Breast Cancer Fund. Mark your calendars.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Michigan's kicker Brendan Gibbons expelled for sexual misconduct

It was just announced that Brendan Gibbons, University of Michigan's kicker, has been "permanently separated" from the university. He's being expelled on the grounds that he violated the school's sexual misconduct code.

Most folks are linking to the Michigan Daily story, as are we, but details about the event behind the expulsion – which happened on November 22, 2009, mind you – have been available on the Washtenaw Watchdogs website for quite some time. I myself have read the entire police report (save for the blocked out names, of course) from the site, so if you're interested in reading it, I'd suggest going there and clicking on the police reports in the footnotes.

Long story short, Gibbons was arrested for raping an 18-year-old female Michigan student during her freshman year and his red shirt freshman year.

The second question Gibbons had after giving his testimony to the police, the first one being if he could stop talking:

"Will I be able to play football here next year?"

Washtenaw Watchdogs: Brendan Gibbons Rape Allegations
H/t to @spillitgirl for bringing these new details on the issue to our attention today.

Cure your Polar Vortex blues at the Botanical Gardens

Has the latest cold snap left you yearning for summer? Have your forgotten what it feels like to be warm? Then maybe it's time for you to check out the conservatory at the Botanical Gardens.

I was fortunate enough to have to visit the gardens today to pick up some supplies my lab cached there. The tropical section of the conservatory was super nice: warm, sunny and filled with subtle tropical scents. I'd highly recommend a visit.

If you want to see some pictures of the Botanical Gardens that are way nicer than the ones I took, check out this photo set on Michigan Exposures.

Should Ann Arbor's water utilities be use to support sprawl?

The ideas in this post were largely spawned from a tweet by @localinannarbor. And honestly, I don't do much more than add some pictures and a little history.

In November 2003 City of Ann Arbor voters approved funding for the Greenbelt Program. Since then, local tax dollars have been used to leverage 20.8 million in grants, local funds and donations to conserve 4,200 acres of farmland and open space adjacent to Ann Arbor. Hopefully, this program will be able to slow suburban sprawl and ensure healthy open areas.

The City of Ann Arbor also supplies areas of Ann Arbor and Scio Townships with drinking water services. In addition to the aforementioned townships, Pittsfield Township receives wastewater services. Right now there is a proposal for a new 176 house development on 162 acres of farmland at approximately 4300 W. Liberty in Scio Township. The development would need Ann Arbor drinking water due to its location on top of the Gelman 1,4 Dioxaine Plume (an area of ground water contamination courtesy of Pall Corp née Gelman Scientific). The development will also need access to Ann Arbor's wastewater treatment services, or else the developer says they will have to build their own treatment plant.

Ann Arbor voters have shown that they value conservation of farmland and open spaces. They approved a millage to support this vision. It is counter productive for the City to work against our collective vision of conservation by supporting sprawl on the very farmland we are attempting to conserve with City resources. I don't know if we have an agreement with Scio Township about expanding water services to new developments. If we do, it's high time we revisit that agreement.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Michigan Cancelled Classes

It's been a really long time since that happened. Like late seventies long. I guess the last time was during the Great Blizzard of 1978 or as I affectionately call it, the Cleveland Superbomb.
Wikipedia- the cleveland super bomb
Now, since U of M has declared tomorrow a shit show, I recommend staying inside. Maybe call a friend on your cup phone or play Wii Superbomb Sledding. It's really not a day to show off by braving the cold.

On the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry

On September First, 2013 Notre Dame Head Coach, Brian Kelly said:

"I really haven't seen it as one of those historic, traditional Notre Dame rivalries," Kelly said on a conference call. "I've seen it as just one of those great football games that Notre Dame has played.

"For me, I've been in Michigan a long time, I've always felt the Notre Dame-Michigan game was a big regional game. But in the Notre Dame history books, this game has (been) played, but obviously there have been some years where it hasn't been played for a number of years."

Oh yeah really Coach? This chicken and cigarette smoking cherub would beg to differ. Notre Dame and U of M don't play each other every year, but the teams have met on the gridiron 40 times since 1887. In fact, in the 1887 season U of M beat Notre Dame 4 times.

Image via Createteria via Vintage Ann Arbor

Michigan may be cold, but at least we're not haunted

Via @Amazing_Maps: this map has been making the round on the interwebs. It was made with the top google auto-complete response for each state. Michigan is part a of a large group of "cold states." Not that you didn't already know that. Pennsylvania though, is apparently haunted up the wazoo.

Michigan Schools not teaching Creationism with Tax Money

Slate has a cool map of Schools that are using public tax money to teach creationism. The cool part is that no schools in Michigan meet their criteria for inclusion. Yay.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Watching snow plows in real time

Ann Arbor's hottest website is the city's real time snow plow tracker. You can watch all your favorite plows in action and see what they are doing. Which plow are you going to cheer on? Crowd favorite 4556, or bad boy snow plow, 4553?

Friday, January 24, 2014

County Line at PNT

County Line a brand new play from David Wells (who also wrote Brill) is opening tonight at Performance Network Theater. We will have a full review shortly. Here's a description from PNT:

From the playwright of PNT’s recent hit BRILL, COUNTY LINE is the whimsical and profound story of 17-year-old Lois’ journey after the arrest of her father. Lois is sentenced to the strict confines of a foster home run by Tanya – a woman who is not your typical guardian and owns the County Line Truck Stop & Travel Center. In this coming-of-age story, Lois encounters both her first look at the subtle terrors one human can inflict upon another and a lifeline to humanity that will ultimately save her. Starring Julia Glander, Alissa Nordmoe, Phil Powers, and Emilio Rodriguez.

10 Reasons to Visit Detroit
Thrillist posted a list of reasons people should visit Detroit. The list has no real surprises, but maybe it'll pique interest in Detroit before Robocop comes out.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Will our Kuroshio ads stop?

Or will they haunt us like a ghost on the back stairs of an Ypsi house? Kuroshio is closing according to the internet. I will miss their looming presence on our Facebook postings. 

Want to buy a bookstore?

The Owner of Nicola's Books in Westgate is looking to sell. According to an article on Publisher's Weekly, the owner of Ann Arbor's largest independent bookstore is looking to transition out of ownership to spend more time with her family. It'll be sad to see the store change hands, but it's nice to hear Nicola's is still profitable.

H/T: Mary Morgan

Haunted House in Ypsilanti?

Doesn't look too spooky from the outside, but according to this Craigslist Wanted post:

Haunted House - $25 (11 South Summit)

I sold this property after 10 years in 1991. Can't find out who owns it now. I'd like to buy it back before it gets torn down. Ghost climbs the back stairs in the evening. Never bothered anybody.

I don't know if $25 will get you a haunted house in Ypsilanti.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

U of M hires new Social Media Director

Looks like U of M has hired Nikki Sunstrum as their new Social Media Director. Nicole is a native of Ionia County and most recently hails from the city of Portland Michigan where she was elected to City Council in November of last year. Nikki has a BA from GVSU and a Masters from Aquinas College. Most recently, she has worked as a Social Media Director for the State of Michigan. Welcome aboard Nikki.

Glyph looks super sweet

Have you guys seen Glyph, the locally made darling of the Consumer Electronics Show? It looks super awesome. Avegant, the Ann Arbor based company that makes Glyph, just launched a Kickstarter for the initial production and have already crushed their $250,000 goal. Glyph is slated for December delivery and will retail for about $500. Pretty sweet that it's coming from a local company.

H/T: @almcalmcal

Student Food Coop now offering pre-orders

The Student Food Coop is now taking pre-orders. If you place your order here, before midnight, you'll be able to just waltz over to the Stacks on Friday and pick up your produce. Pretty sweet.

Nerd Nite 11: tomorrow at Live

Nerd Nite 11 looks like it'll be pretty great. One of my former students, Sara Cole is giving a presentation on "The Secret Life of Stuffed Birds." Sara works in the Natural History Museum's Bird Division and is very knowledgeable about her subjects. There will also be presentations by Beth Johnson on contemporary origami and James York on music composition. Should be illuminating.

Doors are at 6:30 and cover is just $5.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Heroin in Washtenaw County

Heroin use is increasing nationally. In Washtenaw County, were not insulated from this unfortunate trend; last year, at least 25 people died of heroin overdoses compared to 11 in 2012, and 10 in 2011. My ties to Ann Arbor's seedy underbelly are not what they used to be (I no longer work in the restaurant industry) so I don't know any current users. I do hear things though, mostly from my students. The Ann has a good long-read about the increase in heroin usage in the Ann Arbor Area. It's definitely worth a read.

Image via Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office

A visit to Two James Spirits

On Saturday EJ, Benji and I went and checked out Two James Spirits in Corktown. The distillery is the first business in Detroit to produce spirits since the Volsted Act. The smallish bar was pretty busy, but the doorman was vigilant about following fire code so it was never packed. After standing for a bout ten minutes, one of the bartenders found us a recently vacated table. He also gave us samples of their yet to be released full rye whiskey. It was cask strength and pre-barrel aging. It was delicious, if potent. The rye had a sweetness reminiscent of some Eastern European fruit brandies I've had, but without the fruit flavor.

The bar offers cocktails ranging from traditional to über-craft. At the zenith of the hand-crafted cocktail era, it is nice to see a craft distillery offering Manhattans, whiskey-sours, and gin and tonics in edition concoctions like Springtime for Hoffa (whiskey, apple brandy and currant jam). Prices were reasonable ranging from $7 for basic cocktails and shrubs up to $12 for Springtime for Hoffa. I ordered a glass of their Grass Widow Bourbon, neat. It was very good smooth, with a nice sweetness due to a high proportion of rye in the mash.

Our party was split on shrubs. Shrubs are fruit and herb infused vinegar syrups popular in the Colonial Era. Two James had three varieties of shrub served with their spirits. They have a lot of flavor, and a distinctly vinegar finish. They were good, but I think they could have been better with a little soda water and ice served on a hot sumer day.

All in all, Two James is wonderful. The three space is cozy yet not cramped. It wasn't noisy and there are no TVs. All three bartenders on Saturday were super nice and did a great job getting people their drinks quickly on a busy evening. I'm glad to see that Detroit finally has a working distillery.

On a related note: one of my greatest regrets in life is not getting in on the bottom floor of the craft brewing scene. Sure, it would have been hard to balance running a brewery and going to middle school back in 1995, but still, I think I could have made a good go of it. Anyway, I'm beginning to worry that this whole craft distillery thing is starting to take off, and I'll probably miss it too. That is, unless we start making beet rum. Brum, an idea whose time has come.

Monday, January 20, 2014

BBUM has the commenters going nuts on the News

The .News has an article up about the U of M Black Student Union's speech in front of Hill Auditorium. The group made a list of 7 demands at the speech. They include things like:

We demand available housing on central campus for those of lower socio-economic status at a rate that students can afford, to be a part of university life, and not just on the periphery.

We demand the equal opportunity to succeed with emergency scholarships for black students in need of financial support, without the mental anxiety of not being able to focus on and afford the university's academic life.

The group also said they would undertake a "physical action" campaign if their demands are not met. I'm interpreting that to mean protests, and sit-ins. Though the commenters on the .News are interpreting the statement to mean Obama has given the BSU permission to use violence to overthrow whitie. People are commenting so quickly that it's impossible to read them with live updates. I've timed out a rate of about 3-4 comments per minute. And they are pretty crazy [Ed: racist]:
Kevin Frisbie

i think michigan should just go on.......terrorists "physical violence" as the protesters have said cannot be given into...otherwise the next group that protests and the next and the next....will get their mlk day ...they threaten physical thinking MLK would be proud....not........ive been going back and forth about getting my made up my mind

I'm trying to come up with some sort of uplifting lesson from all of this, but I've really got nothing. I guess it's good that people are working to increase diversity on campus. I've also heard that emergency loans are a great way to help all students who may be struggling economically.

The Brinery Wins Good Food Award

Photo from
The Brinery has been producing fermented goods in our area for a few years now. They are rising through kraut ranks, appearing in local stores and statewide in Whole Foods. Now, they have been nationally recognized by the Good Food Awards. The Sea Stag Kraut and Oh Gee Kimchi are among the winners of the awards this year. If you haven't tried Brinery products already, walk into the food co-op or make a trip down to the farmers market. I recommend the Root-31.

Harry Belafonte speaking at Hill Auditorium right now

The Harry Belafonte is speaking at Hill Audatorium right now. He is the keynote lecturer for the MLK Day symposium. The lecture lasts from 10 - 11:30. If you hurry, you might be able to get there before it starts because of Michigan Time.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Beer in Brief: ABC's Bourbon Barrel Aged Jackhammer

I was fortunate enough to procure a sample of the limited edition bourbon barrel aged strong ale from a high placed anonymous source at ABC this evening. If you like bourbon, you will like this beer. It essentially tastes like a delicious smooth bourbon, but without the burning sting of hard liquor. There are lots of mellow smokey notes of oak, vanilla and maybe even just a hint of caramel at the beginning. The finish is very smooth with just the right malty notes. The only way I knew I wasn't sipping a whiskey was the lack of the alcohol mouthfeel. This is a good beer to sip on a cold night. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A new mascot for the AAATA?

Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority, meet Aaata finchi, a large beetle endemic to Baluchistan and the only member of the genus Aaata. Who knew, that with the addition of that extra "A" to the local transit organizations' name they would share their name with a super cool beetle? Maybe we should start painting all the busses to look like these guys. There could also be a cute cartoon version of A. finchi that would appear in advertising spots and maybe even its own comic book. Really the marketing possibilities are endless. If you're listening to this Quack!Media, I expect to get a cut of the profits for coming up with this idea.

Image via Coleop-Terra

Ann Arbor rent price heat map

Evan Dancer is a former student of mine and a cofounder of Cribspot, a rental listing website focusing on off-campus housing for several university towns. As a side project, he has been working on making an Ann Arbor rent price heat map. I feel like I can take at least some credit for this, because I did teach Evan how to use ArcMap, way back when. Anyway, it's off to a pretty good start, but it'd be great to get more coverage in the areas that are not dominated by undergraduates.

Friday, January 17, 2014

30 Instagram Photos That Will Make You Fall In Love With Ann Arbor

From the same Real Estate company that brought you such groundbreaking reports as 30 Instagram Photos That Will Make You Fall In Love With Providence and 30 Instagram Photos that Will Make You Fall in Love with Milwaukee comes 30 Instagram Photos That Will Make You Fall In Love With Ann Arbor. Yes, I know this is formulaic dreck used to promote some business, but it's still nice to see pictures of where you live.

H/T: Michigan Exposures

GastroBoy's 2014 Restaurant Survey

Like the Chilean Miners emerging from the earth after 69 days, A2GastroBoy is back, at least for the time being. Why has GastroBoy clawed his way back into cyberspace? To give his annual Ann Arbor Dining Survey. This is probably my favorite question for the survey:

Anyway, you all should take the survey, because I think I just volunteered to do the data analysis.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ann Arbor City Council preview for January 21, 2014

Ann Arbor City Council meets on Tuesday, 21 January 2014, because Monday January 20 is MLK Day.

Council and mayoral races have already seen multiple people throw their hats into the ring. Here's a short rundown of who is running:

For Mayor:

  • Sabra Briere, currently First Ward council member
  • Sally Hart Petersen, currently Second Ward council member
  • Christopher Taylor, currently Third Ward council member
  • Stephen Kunselman, currently Third Ward council member
For Council, the new faces in the race:
  • Second Ward: Kirk Westphal
  • Third Ward: Julie Grand
  • Fourth Ward: Graydon Krapohl
It promises to be a long and interesting race.

Agenda follows! As always the Ann Arbor Chronicle preview has exhaustive detail.

UPDATE 21 January 2014: No council meeting preview would be complete without agenda modifications, noted 

Guess who is still posting on Craigslist

Gentle Reader, remember the Strictly Platonic we posted last month? The one where the guy from Farmington who was looking for a young woman to be his roommate? Well he's still posting. Even better, the posts now almost feature the picture of El Señor Murder Basement:

Are You Wanting To Move Out? - m4w (Farmington)

Hi there. Are you wanting to change your current living situation? If for any reason you feel you want a new place to live I might be able to help. I live in a 2 bedroom by myself currently in Farmington. I'm a single male. I'm 5'10, brown hair, brown eyes, 170. Here at the complex we have 2 pools for swimming. An indoor pool and also an outdoor. There is a tennis court.

The apartment has stove, refrigerator, oven, microwave, toaster, dishwasher, heat, air conditioning, cable tv and internet, couches, dining table and chairs, 31" tv. The 2nd bedroom has a bed and dresser and is not occupied.

I'm looking for a person that is pleasant to live with. You'd have to keep the place neat and clean. You would not have to pppaayyy anything. If this sounds interesting to you email me. Put new place in the subject line so I know you are real.


Ann Arbor Summer Fest needs your help

Which three local artists would you most like to see play at Top of the Park? You have from now until January 31st to submit your three favorite local bands to the Summer Festival.

H/T: Homeless Dave and Amapanda

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ypsilanti astronomy

What does it mean when a fullmoon rises directly over the Ypsilanti Watertower when lookin down Cross Street? It's gotta mean something. Maybe it means we'll win Würst Bar trivia tonight. 

Mayor Heiftjie on his legacy

Writing for Concentrate, Patrick Dunn has just published Part II of his exit interview with Mayor Hieftje. Here's an excerpt:

PD: One of your greatest successes was the passage of the Greenbelt millage. Why do you think the Greenbelt found such favor, especially for an unusual idea like funding land preservation outside the city?

JH: If you look back at the history of it, in the ‘90s the growth was in the townships around the city. Sprawl was just rampant, and fields that we had driven by for years were being turned into strip malls and subdivisions. It's hard to look back now, but sprawl was a major issue. And looking forward, it seems like only a matter of time to me before sprawl comes back. I think it'll be even closer into the city.

Other topics covered in the interview: the town-gown relationship in light of the Edwards Brothers Property; the pedestrian crossing ordinance and the mayoral veto; and development. It's definitely worth a read.

Image via matthewkaz

Petersen becomes 4th candidate to enter Mayoral Race

The .News is reporting that Ward 2 Democratic Councilmember, Sally Hart Petersen, has announced plans to run for Mayor of Ann Arbor. She joins Stephen Kunselman (D-Ward 3), Christopher Taylor (D-Ward 3), and Sabra Briere (D-Ward 1) in campaigning for the highest office in the city. In other Election 2014 news, the Chronicle is confirming that Julie Grand will be campaigning for Chris Taylor's Ward 3 seat. They are also reporting that incumbents Chuck Warpehoski (D-Ward 5) and Sumi Kailasapathy (D-Ward 1) have pulled petitions to run for reelection. At this point, I don't know of any contested city council races. Gentle Readers, if you too are thinking about throwing your hat into the ring and running for Mayor of Ann Arbor, keep in mind that you only need to get 50 signatures from each of the 5 Wards on your nominating petitions.
UPDATE: The .News is reporting that Kirk Westphal will be seeking the open Ward 2 seat left open by Sally Hart Petersen.
UPDATE 2: Sabra Briere is D-Ward 1.
UPDATE 3: Margie Teall (D-Ward 4) is reported to not be running for re-election, says the Chronicle; Graydon Krapohl will run for the 4th Ward seat.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Want to buy Woodruff's?

Cause it's for sale according to the .News. I hate to see Woodruff's go. It's a great spot for local bands and bands on tour and I like their food too.

But if anyone is looking to start a new bar, or a craft cocktail speakeasy in Ypsi, strike while the iron is hot.

Scooter parking on campus

Nope, not the motor-scooters that the athletes are so fond of these days. Just a run of the mill Razor Scooter locked to a bike rack. I thought the point of these things was that you could collapse them for easy transport.

It's Restaurant Week

Happy Restaurant Week folks. Over on the Daily, Austen Hufford, has made a pretty sweet interactive map of participating restaurants. Are you planning on hitting up any participating restaurants, gentle reader? If you are, keep in mind G$'s skeptical article on the whole matter.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Cosmic Dollar

Click To Enlarge

This woman, named Liz, is looking for the person who returned a dollar bill she once wrote on. I really hope that she finds the person who did such an act. Also, I don't know anything about Dr. Pizza, but already, the name has me liking it. Kudos to you Dr. Pizza for being involved.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Kim Jong-il in sunglasses?

Are we entering a golden age of sticker graffiti? I'm noticing a lot more stickers up downtown lately.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Should the City buy the Edwards Bros. Property?

The University of Michigan has made an offer to buy the local book manufacturer's 16.7 acre property on South State Street for $12.8 million. Due to a 2010 tax abatement agreement, the city has right of first refusal for any sale. The City Council is exploring the option of exercising the aforementioned right.

If the city does nothing, they will lose the property tax revenue from the Edwards Brothers Land. Currently the property pays about $180,000 annually. That said, the assessed value for the property is about $3.1 million so the University is willing to pay substantially more than the value of the parcel. Paying $12.8 million to preserve annual property tax revenue of $180k seems like a raw deal. That said, if the city could quickly "flip" the property, it could result in a larger property tax stream in the future. Still, it seems like it would take a lot of work on the city's part to make sure this investment would pay off.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Election 2014 heating up

Gentle Reader, the August Primary is just 8 months away. Are you as excited as I am? The race to replace John Hieftje is heating up. Just one day after Washtenaw County Board Chair, Yousef Rabhi he will not be running for mayor, Ward 1 Councilmember Sabra Briere has announced that she will be running for mayor. Briere joins city council colleagues Stephen Kunselman (D-Ward 3) and Christopher Taylor (D-Ward 3) in seeking the mayorship.

Briere and Kunselman both won reelection to their seats in the November 2013 general election. By running for mayor, Taylor is not seeking reelection as a councilmember representing Ward 3. Julie Grand, who narrowly lost to Kunselman in the August 2013 primary, has announced she will be seeking to fill Taylor's seat.

At press time, none of the candidates have their websites updated for their current races. Stay tuned to Damn Arbor for more updates.

Drone Show

Tonight there will be a reception at the Ann Arbor Art Center for the show Drones. The show will be up till mid February and the reception starts tonight at six, going till nine. An actual drone should be there, I was told it would politely hover out front. 

FOIA Friday: Fire Station Four has been closed for renovations

On December 20, 2013, Ann Arbor News reporter Ryan Stanton broke the news that Fire Station Four was closed in order to repair mold damage and address air quality issues in the building. This was news to members of Ann Arbor City Council, who found out about it by reading the News. Fire Station Four is located on Huron Parkway near its intersection with Platt Road, and it services the city's east side.

On that same day, I filed a FOIA request with the City of Ann Arbor asking for Fire Station Four records - correspondence about the closing, contracts for remediation, test results and the like. I got word on December 31 that my FOIA would be delayed by 10 business days, and I expect to get the results on or about January 15. This is typical for a slow response, compounded of course by holidays, completely within the letter of the law.

Clearly Damn Arbor is not going to break any urgent news by waiting for FOIAs to come in, but the process of asking formally for records has a positive side effect: you can get cooperation from officials to forward you documents in advance of the formal request coming back from the clerk.

After the break, a copy of the letter from City Administrator Steve Powers to City Council with the description of what happened and what is being done (emphasis added). Thanks to CM Jack Eaton for this document, which can also be found on the Ann Arbor Area Government Document Repository (a2docs). It shows the urgency of the reopening of the station - calls from the Fire Station Four service area are taking more than 9.5 minutes to respond to, compared to just over 6 minutes systemwide.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

What will become of the Happy's Pizza property?

As you can see from this picture, there isn't much left of Happy's Pizza on Main after Tuesday's fire. What will happen to the two parcels that were once Happy's? The two lots are zones D2 and there's and the 7-story 618 S. Main Building going in next door. Seems unlikely Happy's will be replaced within another single story building.