Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Safety in the time of Surveillance

Tomorrow, April 29th, at 7 pm, there is going to be a great presentation on the dangers of facial recognition surveillance. You can register for the event here. This event is being sponsored by some really great orgs: Interfaith Coalition for Peace and Justice, Bend the Arc Jewish Action: Greater Ann Arbor, CryptoParty Ann Arbor, Liberate Don’t Incarcerate, Survivors Speak, Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights. 

Facial recognition technology, especially when used by police is bad. It increases racial disparities in an system that is already rife with them. For example, at least two Black men in Detroit have been arrested and charged with crimes they did not commit based on false facial recognition "matches." According to this BuzzFeed article, the Ann Arbor Police Department has used Clearview AI, a despotic facial recognition software company, for between 51-100 searches. 

 In my humble opinion, Ann Arbor City Council should ban the police department from using any facial recognition software. If you'd like to learn more, make sure you check out Safety in the time of Surveillance tonight at 7pm. You can also learn more by checking out Ban the Scan A2

Monday, April 19, 2021

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: April 19, 2021

 It's going to be a long meeting, so let's get right into it. Here's your #a2Council agenda. Here's the Ann Arbor AF episode about this meeting, which is definitely worth listening to. 

Before we even get to the consent agenda, we have the Administrator's presentation of the proposed budget for next year.  

There is a pretty small consent agenda with just 6 items. CA-2 is really great. My understanding is that it would allocate $100,000 from gas tax revenue to provide maintenance for the city's new protected bike lanes. Unfortunately, some CMs indicated that they don't support this at caucus. This needs 8 votes to pass so if it gets pulled, and nobody crosses faction lines, it will fail. CA-3, CA-4, and CA-5, are all rezonings to build affordable housing. CA-3 is for the old city fleet lot at 721 N Main. CA-4 is for the Pailo Lot, and CA-5 is for the old fire station at 1510 E Stadium. 

There are two public hearings on the docket tonight. PH-1/B-1 and PH-2/DB-1 are the rezoning and site plan for 700 N Main. This 1.2 acre parcel is going to be rezoned from PUD to R4C so that 22 townhouses can be built. This is coming with unanimous recommendation from planning commission. 

There are a couple of really exciting items in the ordinance first readings. C-1 is the updated ADU rules. These rules will get rid of a lot off the restrictions on the current ordinance including getting rid of minimum lot size and the owner occupancy requirement. I hope this passes. C-2 is the conditional rezoning for the Valhalla. This is a great project that provides much needed market rate housing in addition to 15 subsidized units. There is some talk that "neighbors" are opposed to this, but to that I say, "who, the golf course?" There is also talk that this development will cause too much traffic. Looking at this project, it looks like it will be about 500 units, and the stretch of Main Street has ~28,200 cars per day so I call shenanigans on that objection. 

The biggest source of conflict on tonight's agenda is DC-5. By way of background, last weekend, Ward 1 CM Jeff Hayner was disparaging journalism, and chose to do so using a quote with a homophobic slur. If you'd like to read more, check out the Daily's article. DC-5 would remove Hayner from his committee positions until they are assigned in December. As you can probably imagine, gentle reader, tensions around this one are pretty high. Hayner, and his allies on council, are citing (non-existant) process issues. Honestly, I am not sure why they are not just cutting their losses on this one. I normally joke about the "spicy chilies" on the agenda, but what Hayner said was super hurtful, and I don't want to make light of of that. 

As always, 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, April 5, 2021

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: April 5 2021


Gentle readers, tonight is the first #a2council meeting of April. Here's the agenda, and here's the A2AF episode about the meeting. I am going a little out of order here, but I think the most exciting item here is DC-3, a resolution directing the administrator to develop an unarmed public safety response program. This is a great direction the city is moving. 

The evening kicks off with a respectable, 24-item consent agenda. Of note, CA-5, repaving S. Industrial. Looks like some mid-block crossings are going to be added. CAs 14 through 18 are all purchasing conservation easements in various forms. Neat. 

There are 6 public hearings on the docket this evening. PH-1/B-1 and PH-2/B-2 are rezoning parcels to make nature areas. PH-3/B-3 is a township island annexation. PH-4/B-4 is the second, second reading of the fair housing ordinance. On this one there will probably be a lot of landlords calling in to say they need to be able to discriminate against people who have been convicted of crimes. PH-5/B-5 is a restructuring of the dog license fees. PH-6/B-6 is the second reading of the reduction in fees for failure to shovel snow. 

C-1 is the first reading of an ordinance making it so that landlords cannot start showing houses or asking to renew leases until 240 days into a year long lease. Currently they can start showing houses 70 days into a lease. C-2 and C-3 are township island rezonings. C-4 and C-5 are ordinances to governing the rules for short term rentals.  

Elsewhere on the agenda we have DC-2, a resolution to support U of M's President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality’s recommendations. DC-4 is a resolution condemning recent anti-Asian attacks and rhetoric. And DC-5 is a resolution to order the Attorney's Office to review ordinances related to police enforcement. The A2AF podcast has a good discussion of this towards the end of the most recent episode. Hopefully the report will recommend getting rid of statues that criminalize things like having drug paraphernalia and consensual sex work. 

As always, 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.