Monday, November 26, 2018

News in Brief: Ham on the Lam

Two days ago local Redditor, anniemaxine, posted a picture of a pig wandering freely in Gallup Park. If you are missing a pig, it may still be in the park.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

1843 Map of Washtenaw County

Ann Arbor in 1843. Lots of churches. 

I came across surveyor S. Pettibone's awesome 1843 map of Washtenaw County while browsing the Clark Map Library's colleciton. You can see Ann Arbor (above) and Ypsilanti (below) when they were just small towns.

Ypsilanti in 1843, Lots of mills.

Burr oak and Hickory Plains in Sharon Township.

By far, my favorite feature is detailed forest composition and soil characteristics included on the map. It's definitely worth checking out.

Gently ro9lling Black and White Oak above clay loam in Sylvan Township.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Election Party Roundup

Genele reader, the big day is finally here. If you are looking to celebrate, or drown your sorrows, here is a list of local election night parties.

League of Women Voters Watch Party: HopCat, 311 Maynard St. Details.
UM Ford School Watch Party: Frasier's Pub, 2045 Packard. Details.
Voters Not Politicians Watch Party: Pizza House, 618 Church St.Details.
UM Ginsberg Center Watch Party: 1024 Hill St. Details.
Electric Eye Cafe Watch Party: 811 N. Main St. Details.
Jeff Hayner and Elizabeth Nelson Watch Party with Karaoke: Necto Nightclub, 516 E. Liberty. Details .
UM College Democrats Watch Party: Arbor Brewing Company, 114 E. Washington. Details.
Workantile Watch Party: 118 S. Main St.
No on Prop A watch party: Aut Bar, 315 Braun Ct.

Opinion: Election 2018 Endorsements

Most importantly, gentle reader, vote today if you are able. If you are interested, here are my 2018 election endorsements.

Ann Arbor

Ward 1: Vote for Ryan Hughes. I like his stance on affordable housing. Also, Jeff Hayner has made a ton of... problematic tweets. e.g. said a current councilwoman has resting bitch face; is opposed to people choosing their pronouns; seems to hate pedestrians, etc.

Ward 4: Vote for Elizabeth Nelson. First, she is the strongest proponent of backyard goats we have seen in a generation. Also, I think she is going to be a strong advocate for cyclists.

Ann Arbor Proposition A: Vote No. Housing is one of the most important equity issues our generation faces. Prop A prevents construction of housing and money for affordable housing.

Ypsilanti Public Schools

Vote Yes for the Sinking Fund. It will help repair old buildings and free up general fund money.

Ypsilanti Public Library District

Vote Yes for the Ypsilanti District Library Millage.

Washtenaw County

Vote Yes on the parks millage

State Races

Vote for all the democrats. This includes Bagenstos and Cavanagh for the Supreme Court.

State Propositions

Vote Yes on Proposition 1: ending cannabis prohibition keeps people out of the criminal justice system and will bring millions of dollars in for education and roads.

Vote Yes on Proposition 2: ending Gerrymandering is perhaps the most important thing on the ballot this year. It will make our state more democratic.

Vote Yes on Proposition 3: make it easier for everyone to vote.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Opinion: Vote No on Ann Arbor Proposition A

The Library Lot

I am against Ann Arbor City Proposition A. I encourage you, gentle reader, to vote "No" on Proposition A, if you are registered to vote in Ann Arbor. I support the City's effort to sell the development rights above the Library Lot parking structure. And I generally support the Core Spaces proposal to develop the site. In this article, I will briefly outline why I am opposed to City Proposition A, as well as why I support development on that site.

Proposition A would add an amendment to the Ann Arbor City Charter that would designate all city-owned public land on the block with the Downtown Library to "be retained in public ownership, in perpetuity, and developed as an urban park and civic center commons, known as the ‘Center of the City.’”

There are three main reasons I am opposed to Proposition A, and why I support development on the Library Lot. This first is because I support the construction of more housing in Ann Arbor. The second two reasons have to do with decisions we made as a community in the past.

Ann Arbor needs more housing. The rate of new housing construction, both single and multi-family, is lower now than it was in the early 2000s . The job market in Ann Arbor is strong. U of M alone has added 10,000 jobs in the last 10 years. Between 70,000 and 80,000 people commute into Ann Arbor every day for work. There are more students living here too. Enrollment at U of M is up about by about 6,000 students in the last 10 years. There are a lot more people vying for housing in Ann Arbor at a time when the rate of housing construction has decreased. We see the effects of this in dramatically increasing rents, home sale prices, and clogged roads during commutes. More housing in Ann Arbor will help reduce the increases in rent and home prices, and congestion. The Core Spaces building alone will not solve these problems — no single project will — but it will contribute to making these situations better.

There are two decisions we, as a community, made in the past that lead to my support of development on the Library Lot and opposition to Proposition A. First is the Greenbelt. In 2003 we approved the Greenbelt millage. Ann Arbor voters made the decision to buy conservation easements in the townships around the city in an attempt to limit sprawl. Implicit in this decision was that Ann Arbor would increase in density as the city’s ability to increase in area became constrained. If we limit sprawl and stymie density increases, what we achieve is driving up housing costs and making Ann Arbor a less diverse and accessible community.

The second decision we made was to invest our resources in building an underground parking structure that could support a tall building. Between 2009 and 2012 the City built the Library Lane, a 4 story, 738 space, underground parking structure. This cost $55 million, of which $15 million was to build a structure capable of supporting a tall building on top. Approximately $35 million of the total cost came through the sale of Build America Bonds. The plan was always to sell the development rights of the air above the Library Lot to a private company. I know that not everyone agreed with this decision, but nevertheless the decision was made to build an underground parking structure capable of supporting a large (17-18 story) building. If we do not go through with some construction on the site, we are being poor stewards of our resources, both physical and financial. We made the decision to put a lot of cement and steel into the ground in order to support a large building. We are wasting those resources if we don't use them. Also, the Core Spaces project will immediately recoup $10 million of the $15 million we invested in building the Library Lot. It will also generate an estimated $2 million per year in property and $200k per year in hotel taxes.

There are other reasons I do not support Proposition A, and reasons that I support the Core Spaces development. Here are the other reasons I don't support Proposition A:

Here are other reasons I support development on the Library Lot:

  • I support affordable housing. $5 million from the $10 million sale of the development rights to Core Spaces goes to Ann Arbor's Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
  • I support more housing generally (see above). I do not believe building exclusively market rate housing will solve our housing problems. That said, it does have a role to play. Simply put, Ann Arbor needs more housing of all types.
  • The Core Spaces proposal includes a 12,000 sq. ft. plaza, and funds for maintenance and programing. (Also, there is the possibility of a splash pad.) This is smaller than the park that the Proposition A supporters want at the site. However, unlike their proposal, the Core Spaces proposal has a concrete plan, and a funding mechanism. (And, maybe, a splash pad.)

So there you have it, gentle reader. These are the reasons I encourage you to vote "No" on Ann Arbor Proposal A, and why I support development on that site. I think going forward with development on the Library Lot is an important step forward for our community.

H/T: to AKGoodman, STrudeau for helping me trackdown data and CDzombak for editing.