Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: February 18 2020

Sidewalk Special Assessment District #60 from CA-7
Buckle up gentle readers, because tonight's #a2council meeting is going to be off the chain. Will there be animus? Yes. Raised voices? For sure. Yelling? Probably. Frustrated pen clicking? You betcha. Here's the agenda. In an effort to not bury the lead, the spiciest chili on tonight's agenda is DC-8, a motion to terminate the employment agreement with Administrator Howard Lazarus. This is sponsored by CMs Eaton and Lumm. The motion would fire Lazerus without cause, granting him one year of severance pay. It needs 6 votes to pass.

On to the consent agenda! There are only 16 items, but it'll probably take a while just to get through everything that gets pulled. CM Bannister indicated that she was going to pull the Barton sidewalk special assessments CA-6 and CA-7. Seems like building sidewalks near a school should be a no brainer, but here we are. It's hard because in the past Ann Arbor allowed people to build houses without sidewalks. My understanding is that most houses have sidewalks in the city from when they were built. Thus, the cost of the sidewalk was factored into the original construction of the building. Because of this, the way we pay for new sidewalks is by assessing property owners for the footage of sidewalk being constructed on their easements. These special assessments can be spread out over several years so as not to hit a property owner with a single giant payment. Sidewalks are important, especially if we want to make it easier and safer for people to not drive.

There are two public hearings on tonight's docket. PH-1/B-1 is on an ordinance to change how commissioners are appointed to boards. PH-2/DB-1 is on a township island annexation on Newport Road. Recently township island annexation has become a little spicy, so we will see how this goes.

In old business, we have DC-1 and DC-2. The first is the resolution to establish the city mobility committee. The second directs the "City Administrator to review existing policies and procedures on communications between City staff and Councilmembers, recommend improvements as needed to support City Council’s goal of improved communications through collaboration, transparency, and accuracy of information, and report to City Council any improved policies or procedures by March 31, 2020."

DC-5 is a resolution to support the Washtenaw Housing Alliance's Affordable Housing Pledge. Another interesting item is F-2, the Transportation Commission's recommendation for a statewide crosswalk ordinance.

Well gentle reader, what do you think about the plan to fire Administrator Lazarus? What agenda items are you most interested in? Make sure you tune into the action tonight at 7 on CTN. As always, you can follow the #a2council hashtag on twitter too.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Apple Season Review

William Faulkner famously wrote: The past is never dead. It’s not even past.

Those words ring true throughout theater Nova’s production of E.M. Lewis’ Apple Season. The central idea—a woman returns to the home where she grew up after the death of her father—is not original to this play but the fabulous direction by David Wolber on a heartbreakingly idyllic set (designed by Monica Spencer) make it fresh and interesting. Apple Season finds Lissie Fogerty (played by Alysia Kolascz) back in the orchard during the titular season, hours after the conclusion of the funeral for her father. As she picks the Northern Spies and the Mountain Roses, high school classmate Billy (played by Jeremy Kucharek) arrives, asking how she has been doing in the decades since she abruptly left town and ultimately inquiring about purchasing the orchard from her.

The action soon flashes back to the past, which finds Lissie and older brother Roger (played by Matthew Swift) as kids in the apple trees, hiding from shots being fired from a .22. It quickly becomes apparent that this tranquil apple orchard produced a horrific past for the Fogerty siblings.

The play swings back and forth between past and present, from a playful scene from outside the high school, to an emotionally wrenching conversation at a water tower, to the funeral that happened earlier that day. All three actors breathe brilliant life into what could have been cliché characters in the hands of lesser actors. Audience members feel the incredible grit tinged with vulnerability in Lissie, the warmth of the kindhearted, earnest Billy, and the pain of the selfless, stoic but hurting Roger. Ultimately, Lissie must decide how to reckon with a past that isn’t, as Faulkner said, past. Taking those steps with these characters is an emotional, beautiful, haunting journey that is hard to forget.

Apple Season runs through February 23 at Theater Nova.

Patti Smith is a teacher, writer and historian who lives in Ann Arbor.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: February 3, 2020

Gentle readers, it's time for you #a2council preview. Here's the agenda.

We start the evening off with a small, 13 item consent agenda. There are three street closings: one for the National Training Institute Opening Ceremony, July 26; one for Take Back the Night, April 2; and one for Artober fest, October 16.

There are two Public Hearings. PH-1/B-1 is for an ordinance that would create spaces for voting youth members on the Environment Commission. Here youth is defined as 16-25. I like this, but let's have youth members be 14-18 and be on all our commissions. PH-2 is for a routine township island annexation. At the Council Caucus meeting last night a CM mentioned that this was not opposed, so this will likely not have any discussion at tonight's meeting and pass easily. There has been a plan for Annex township islands for over two decades. There is really no good reason for an #a2councilmember to oppose the township island annexation plan.

C-2 is the first reading of an ordinance that would give boards and commissions a greater role in sourcing new members. DC-2 is a resolution supporting the EPA designating the Gelman Plume a superfund site. This was postponed at the last meeting. DC-3 would establish a new City Council Committee, the Mobility Committee. DC-4 is a vaguely worded rule resolving "That Council strive to improve its effectiveness by focusing on three components of excellent governmental communications:" Collaboration, INformation that is accurate, complete and timely, and Transparency.

And there you have it gentle readers. Make sure you tune into CTN tonight at 7pm to check out the action. And as always, you can follow the blow by blow action on the #a2council hashtag.