Monday, July 27, 2020

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: July 27 2020

Gentle readers, #a2council has decided to grace us with one final meeting before the August Primary. Here's the agenda. There is only one item on the agenda for this special session, DC-1. This is a resolution to put an affordable housing millage before voters this fall. I don't have much more to say other than that I hope this passes in its current form. There is some talk of amendments that would shorten the term of this millage, and remove supportive housing funds from it. Both of these would make this millage less effective at housing Ann Arbor's most vulnerable.

Gentle reader, I am probably forgetting some very important items here. What agenda items are you most looking forward to seeing. I am guessing that tonight will be another late night around the virtual council table. Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2council hashtag.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: July 20, 2020

Gentle reader, tonight is the last #a2council meeting before the August Primary. Exciting. Here's the agenda.

The evening starts off with a modest, 9 item consent agenda. The biggest item here is CA-9, the agreement with Recycle Ann Arbor to lease the Materials Recovery Facility. I am not going to do this next part justice, but there has been a lot of disruption in the recycled materials market and this has lead to some issues with the city's recycling. There is a ton more here but I don't know it off the top of my head and it's already late in the day. Oh, also there is CA-2, which is the city's Zoom subscription.

There are three public hearings tonight. PH-1/B-1 is on the rezoning of 3611-3621 Plymouth from PUD to C3 (fringe commercial district). Right now this is a Red Roof Inn and a Panera. There is a proposal for a larger, 5-story hotel and a Panera. This requires a variance and there was some opposition at the last #a2council meeting so we may not see this eminently reasonable project pass. PH-2/DB-1 is approval of the site plan for the aforementioned projet. PH-3/B-2 is an ordinance to amend the city's rules for purchasing, contracting, and selling. I am going to be honest gentle reader, I have not read this.

C-2 is a rezoning of 2800 Jackson Road from R5 (Hotel) to C3 (fringe commercial district). Another big item on the agenda is C-3. This is the first reading of an ordinance that would regulate short term rentals (Air B&B/VRBO). Upon a quick reading this seems pretty moderate.

Elsewhere we have DC-4 which would implement a "Rooney Rule" for non-union hires. This would mean that for every-non union hire the city would need to interview at least one non cis-hetro-white male. DC-5 is a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis in Washtenw County.

DC-6 is a resolution to put an affordable housing millage on the November ballot. There was a lot of talk at last night's Caucus meeting about postponing this til the first meeting in August to "get it right." I expect there will be extensive debate on this one tonight.

DS-1 order an election and determine the ballot question for charter amendment for a 2022 Street, Bridge, and Sidewalk Millage. DS-2 is a resolution of intent for said millage. DS-3 is a resolution to order an election and to determine a ballot question for a charter amendment for the 2021 new sidewalk construction millage.

Gentle reader, I am probably forgetting some very important items here. What agenda items are you most looking forward to seeing. I am guessing that tonight will be another late night around the virtual council table. Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2council hashtag.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Election 2020 Endorsements: Disch, Song, Radina, Eyer, and Briggs


I think the following issues are the most important in the upcoming election: addressing Ann Arbor’s housing crisis (both subsidized and market rate); supporting Ann Arbor’s carbon neutrality plan (A2Zero); supporting non-automobile based transit (walking, biking, buses); and supporting substantial police reform. Because of this I am endorsing:

Ward 1, Lisa Disch
Ward 2, Linh Song
Ward 3, Travis Rienda
Ward 4, Jen Eyer
Ward 5, Erica Briggs

Out with the conservative incumbents

Anne Bannister (Ward 1), Jane Lumm (Ward 2), and Jack Eaton (Ward 4) are part of the conservative coalition that currently holds a majority. I am sure there are many people would disagree with the conservative label. Nevertheless, I think it's fair. This group has voted to remove dedicated funding from affordable housing, climate change, and pedestrian safety. They also voted against the Safe Routes to School sidewalk project on Traver Street which caused the city to lose a ~$500k grant. This group has also voted against sever projects that would have added much needed affordable housing market rate housing (Lockwood and Brightdawn). Lumm and Eaton are also strong advocates for more police. This council group has also undertaken a bunch of bad government reforms. They blocked planning commission from discussing denser housing construction along transit corridors. They voted to fire the city administrator for political reasons. They voted to remove road diet decisions from city staff and then blocked several road diets. I don't think Bannister, Lumm, and Eaton are the right people to build an inclusive, sustainable future for Ann Arbor.

DSA Candidates

There are two candidates who are Democratic Society of America members Evan Redmond and Dan Michniewicz. I like their platforms, especially their stances on police reform, but I am not endorsing them. First, I think relative to the other progressive candidates in their wards, they have less experience in city government. Secondly, my gut says that these candidates have less support than the other progressive candidates in their wards and I think it's unwise to split the anti-conservative vote.

Ward 1

Lisa Disch is political professor at U of M. I think her platform is great. Disch highlights affordable housing, environmental stewardship, and a broad definition of public safety. In particular I like her plan to create a Renter’s Commission. Ann Arbor is over 50% renters yet their voice is often absent from our decision making process. I really think she would bring a great perspective to council and that she would help make our community a more equitable place.

From the point of view of many of the things I consider important, Ward 1 incumbent, Anne Bannister’s, record on council has not been great. She has been a staunch opponent of sidewalk special assessment. She voted against reappointing Scott Trudeau from the Planning Commission and then dishonesty manipulated a quote from him on recent campaign literature to make it sound like it was an endorsement (the quote comes from this post). Bannister’s literature also makes it look like Ward 3 Councilmember Zach Ackerman supports her though he endorsed Disch. One of the most offensive things Bannister has done during her tenure on council is sue the city to try to shield her official communications with constituents from FOIA. Anne Bannister has a strong record of opposing things I care about: affordable housing, climate change action, and pedestrian safety. I think Ann Arbor will be better without her on counsel.

Ward 2

I think Linh Song’s record of service to our community is outstanding: she has served as chair of the Ann Arbor District Library Board, she currently serves on the board of directors of Avalon House. Song has also been on the board of directors of CivCity Initiative, Neutral Zone. Her commitment to service and equality runs deep. Song's background show that she is truly someone who is committed to working for the greater good. Full disclosure here: for my day job I work at Duo Security, the local tech company that was founded by Song's husband, Dug.

“Jane Lumm is a typical Ann Arbor Republican, … “ -Jack Eaton

Jane Lumm does not call herself a Democrat. She ran as a Republican until realizing they could no longer get elected in Ann Arbor. Then she started running as an independent. Now that there are no longer odd year elections, she is forced to run in the Democratic primary despite the fact that she does not appear to support progressive values. Lumm has a long history of supporting Republicans including Rick Snyder and Bill Scheute. She has voted against affordable housing (4th and Catherine project, as well as market rate projects with affordable components (Lockwood and Brightdawn). Of particular note, Lumm has spearheaded the effort to reverse the transition to a 4-tier water rate system. I don’t want to get too much into the weeds here, but Lumm strongly advocates for a system where households that use lots of water would be subsidized by apartment dwellers and people who use less water. Read more here. Jane has also advocated spending more money on police. Lumm is one of the most conservative voices on council, and continually stands in the way of making Ann Arbor a more equitable and sustainable place.

Ward 3

Ward 3 has an open seat and I think Travis Radina should fill it. Travis says the main reasons he is running are to address Ann Arbor's affordability crisis and the climate crisis. He recognizes that there is work to be done to make sure Ann Arbor is more equitable in the future. In 2018, Travis was appointed Ann Arbor’s LGBTQ Liaison where he works with the Human Rights Commission, the mayor, and council to improve the lives of Ann Arbor’s LGBTQ residents. I really appreciate Travis' emphasis on equity and sustainability.

Tony Brown is a Ward 3 resident and Digital Distribution Manager at WDET. I really don't like his stance on affordable housing. On his website he states that the main cause of gentrification in Ann Arbor in property taxes. While property taxes can be burdensome, because of Hedlee and Prop A, they are not a primary source of gentrification, especially for long term homeowners. During one of the debates, Brown said that he didn't think you could build your way out of an affordability crisis. Again, this reflects a poor understanding of Ann Arbor's housing needs.

Ward 4

Jen Eyer worked for the Ann Arbor News in various forms from 2000 through 2016. She now works on Democratic campaigns for a public relations firm. Her platform is great and includes things like affordable housing, expanding the tax base, and promoting diversity.

Jack Eaton, again, is one of the most conservative members of Ann Arbor City Council. He has voted against two recent affordable housing projects (4th & Catherine and 415 W. Washington). Eaton has a long history of generally being opposed to new developments. He has been a strong advocate for more police. When he ran for mayor, he made overtures Republicans. In the past, Eaton took campaign donations form Ron Weiser, former head of the Michigan GOP. His initial "no" vote on repurchasing the Y Lot ended up costing the city $1 million dollars. That money went to one of his largest donors, Dennis Dahlmann. Read more here. I think Eaton's work on council has made Ann Arbor a more inequitable place and I would love to see council without him on it.

Dr. Mozhgan Savabieasfahani is also running in ward 4. She is best known in the #a2council watching community for her decade plus of coming to Council and demanding the US divest from Israel. The fact that her tactics have not changed during this time period makes me doubt that she would be an effective member of city council.

Ward 5

Erica Briggs is great and I want her to represent the Fighting Fifth on council. She has been on planning commission. She has been chair of the Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition. She has a Ph.D. in political science and a masters in public administration. I think Briggs is immensely qualified to serve on council. I think her experience on Planning Commission is especially important given the upcoming Master Plan rewrite. Briggs' platform is based around responsible growth, environmental stewardship, and good governance. I think Briggs would be a great addition to city council.

The last two times I have seen David Silkworth speak at council he spoke against two affordable housing proposals: 4th & Catherine and 415 W. Washington. I don't really have a ton more to say about that.

If you'd like to see more about these candidates, check out the Ann Arbor League of Women Voters Virtual Candidate Forums. /

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Art Fair Bingo 2020

Art Fair Bingo 2020 by MillerYear

Reddit user MillerYear posted this to the Ann Arbor subreddit. The good news, is that this year we are all winners of Art Fair Bingo.


Art Fair Bingo, a retrospective

2020 Primary Endorsements: Eli Savit for Prosecutor

The prosecutor candidate scorecard from Liberate don't Incinerate. You can read more about their analysis here.  

There are three candidates running in the democratic primary for Washtenaw County Prosecutor: Hugo Mack, Eli Savit, and Arianne Slay. Savit and Slay are the top contenders for the post I focus primarily on the race between them here. Additionally, Mack’s score on the Liberate don’t Incarcerate scorecard is enough to rule him out.

In March 2018, I laid out my hopes for a progressive prosecutor for Washtenaw County. You can read that here. Eli Savit is the prosecutor candidate that comes closest to this. In particular I like his pledge to not seek cash bail nor coercive charges. Cash bail is entirely immoral. It is a system by which people are caged without being convicted of a crime simply for being poor. The burden of our cash bail system falls disproportionately on the poor, Black people, and brown people. In our system, the prosecutor is the person with the greatest control over what happens to a person pre trial, specifically whether they are caged with bail. They determine the charges and request bail amounts. In addition to immorally falling harder on the backs of the poor and minorities, cash bail does not increase the likelihood the accused will show up to trial nor does it make communities safer.

Additionally, there are a lot of other things I like about Savit. He has pledged to not prosecute consensual sex work, and prosecute environmental crimes. Finally I like the very specific pledges that Savit has made. I think it’s really important to have specifics we can hold a candidate to account for.

Arianne Slay is the other serious contender for prosecutor. She is a career prosecutor, first in the County Prosecutor’s Office under Brian Mackie, and now working as a prosecutor in for the city of Ann Arbor. Slay touts how close she is to law enforcement. To be honest, I don’t think this is a positive. Right now in this country we are seeing acutely the oppression our law enforcement and our carceral systems bring to Black and brown communities. I think that it’s important that our new prosecutor not be predisposed to favoring law enforcement’s point of view.

I want to see fewer people caged in Washtenaw County. I think Eli Savit is the candidate best equipped to make that happen.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: July 6, 2020

Today is the first #a2council meeting of July. Here's the agenda.

The evening kicks off with a 26 item deep consent agenda. CA-3 and CA-4 are resolutions to enter participation agreements with Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission to purchase some properties. CA-26 is the new contract with the AAPD union. My understanding is that this has not changed from the last time it was on the consent agenda.

There are two public hearings on the docket. PH-1/B-1 is the second reading of an ordinance that modifies Chapter 55, the old Unified Development Code. If memory serves this cleans up some redundancies and confusing areas in the code. PH-2/B-2 is the second reading of an ordinance modifying the Housing Commission Ordninace. I have not looked into this that much.

On to the resolutions. DC-1 is an ordinance to supporting the EPA's active involvement in the Gelman Site. Will this be postponed yet again? Is the seventh time a charm? DC-3 is healthy downtown streets. I think this removes on street parking in some select streets to expand the area that pedestrians and cyclists can use and be safely distant cause of COVID. Seems like a good idea. It was postponed at the last #a2council meeting.

Be warned gentle reader, things are getting spicier as we go. DC-9 is a moratorium on all new development or expansion of existing development that requires site plan approval in the C1A and C1A/R zoning districts, or rezonings to C1A or C1A/R. This seems pretty narrowly tailored to target the Morningside Development. If you'd like to learn more read Scott Trudeau's letter to council about this rezoning.

DC-11 is a resoulution to support HB 4738, a statewide crosswalk law that seems like it would replace Ann Arbor's stricter Pedestrian Safety Ordinance. The state law would require pedestrians to physically enter a crosswalk to make a driver yield to them. Ann Arbor's ordinance is much better because it requires drivers to yield to pedestrians who are waiting to cross at a marked crosswalk. There is an incorrect narrative that Ann Arbor's crosswalk ordinance has lead to an increase in pedestrians being hit by drivers. The majority of pedestrians who are hit by drivers are hit when drivers are turning and fail to yield to pedestrians at intersections. These situations are not covered by the crosswalk ordinance. The real tragedy of DC-11 is that recently Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo have adopted crosswalk ordinances that are modeled after Ann Arbor's. It would be a shame to eliminate those city's ordinances in addition to Ann Arbor's. Scott Trudeau also wrote about this.

Finally I want to talk about DS-1, pre-entitlement for 415 W. Washington, the old County Road Commission Building. This is essentially pre-approving a specific plan for the site before selling it to a developer. The plan is to use the proceeds from this site to fund affordable housing so it makes sense to approve a moderate density development to maximize the money the city can dedicate to affordable housing. Earning himself a hat trick, Scott Trudeau also wrote about this.

Gentle reader, I am probably forgetting some very important items here. What agenda items are you most looking forward to seeing. I am guessing that tonight will be another late night around the virtual council table. Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2council hashtag.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Imagination and the End of Policing

Tomorrow night at 7 pm the Huron Valley chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America is hosting an awesome panel discussion with Maryam Aziz, Maria Thomas, and Alex Vitale. They will be discussing the end of policing and how that relates to our local struggles to build a more just society. From the press release:

This panel will be a unique opportunity to connect Alex’s work to distinct local struggles against the carceral state. Maryam and Maria will discuss how they began organizing against the harms of policing in Washtenaw County, MI and how they imagine and work to abolish the conditions under which police and prisons became the solution to problems. Maryam, Maria, and Alex will discuss how a rich body of abolitionist theory and an understanding of the international, national, and local histories of resistance to policing can inform and shape local organizing.
This event will be live streamed on Facebook at 7 pm.