Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

City Council: deLights are Goin' on

5. November 2007 • Juliew
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Monday, November 5 at 7:00 pm.
Ann Arbor City HallCity Council Agenda

Highlights:

  • Resolution authorizing street closing for deLights are Goin’ on Downtown special event on Friday, November 16, 2007.

  • Resolution to approve a project milestone extension to the Option Agreement for the Purchase of Land at 350 S. Fifth Avenue (the old Y).
  • Resolution to establish preserve areas within the City Park System.
  • Communications from DDA (approval of a provision for additional parking spaces for William Street Station and Ann Arbor Hotel to enable these projects to meet zoning requirements and assistance to Zaragon Place for creation of a pedestrian walkway during construction).
  • Resolution requesting the DDA prepare a written recommendation for the construction of an underground parking garage on the city-owned South Fifth Avenue parking lot (per David Cahill but not on the agenda).


  1. Traditionally the council meeting on the week of the election has been held after the election. It has been a time to say goodbye to exiting council members. Why different this time?


       —anonymous too    Nov. 5 '07 - 02:34AM    #
  2. I think it was because there were no challengers in the Council elections. Usually there are actual election contests. There is one write in now evidently, but I don’t think it was anticipated.


       —in tune    Nov. 5 '07 - 02:51AM    #
  3. I’m surprised to see so little comment about the 2nd Ward contest here.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Nov. 5 '07 - 03:14AM    #
  4. I know that there are a LOT of signs out in the 2nd Ward for the write in candidate (Amundsen sp?). Lot more signs tham I thought I would see. Is this a real threat? Hard to say. I’m starting to see Rapundalo signs out too.

    I don’t know much about the write in candidate, and I’m a 2nd ward voter. Any observations?


       —Cooler Heads    Nov. 5 '07 - 03:50AM    #
  5. Check out Amonsen’s website at www.edamonsen.org. He has spent over $6,000 so far. His issues include parks and the Municipal Center.


       —David Cahill    Nov. 5 '07 - 03:57AM    #
  6. Yes, check out Amonsen’s website and read what he has to say. But don’t forget to run his address through the county’s website (sorry couldn’t pull off a link).

    http://gisweb.ewashtenaw.org/website/mapwashtenaw/

    Here you can notice that Mr. Amonsen’s Overridge address affords him a lovely view of the Huron Hills Golf Course. Mr. Amonsen’s house is also uniquely situated to block his immediate neighbor’s (to the south) view of the course even though they are both on the north side of Overridge.

    Right or wrong, Mr. Amonsen’s arguments concerning the city’s parkland must also be described as self serving. Huron Hills is his backyard.


       —abc    Nov. 5 '07 - 03:07PM    #
  7. It’s normal for candidates first run for public office because of an issue that concerns them personally. What matters is whether or not that issue resonates with the public.

    The sign count would indicate that Amonsen has an edge. But the perceived difficulty of voting for a write-in candidate would tend to favor Rapundalo. Plus, Rapundalo is the incumbent, which is always an advantage.

    I can’t guess who will win. My attitude is that of Sgt. Schultz in Hogan’s Heroes: “I know nothing, I see nothing, I hear nothing, and I won’t go to the Eastern Front [the Second Ward].”


       —David Cahill    Nov. 5 '07 - 09:48PM    #
  8. Here is Ed Amonsen’s statement to Arblogger.com:

    “I’m in agreement with the same issues that Sabra [Briere] and Mike Anglin got elected on. And if I get elected I’ll work with them to change the dynamics of city council. We need sensible growth in Ann Arbor, but not at the expense of parks and core services. What good is a fancy police station (and garage) if we won’t have enough budget to pay for the police officers we need?”
       —David Cahill    Nov. 6 '07 - 02:11AM    #
  9. Mr. Amonsen is a wealthy Republican who is supported by other Republicans who see this as a way to slip in under the radar of Democratic voters. One only has to look at who is giving him $$ and who in the second ward is supporting him with a yard sign to know this. Mr. Cahill is showing his true colors in this election.


       —Ted Huey    Nov. 6 '07 - 08:07AM    #
  10. According to WEMU this morning, the extension of the project milestones for William Street Station (the old Y) was denied 6-5 by council. So the project is dead. The mayor was quoted on the radio as being regretful (not known how he voted from the brief clip) but looking forward to new solutions to retaining the 100 affordable beds.

    Now the city council has to come up with a $3.5 million balloon payment next year, as I recall. The DDA has been paying the interest.


       —Vivienne Armentrout    Nov. 6 '07 - 01:31PM    #
  11. I see Ted Huey (aka Leigh Greden) is back!

    I don’t have a position about what is happening on the Eastern Front.

    Hm. It looks like good weather for a rebel offensive. Only the most motivated will vote today.


       —David Cahill    Nov. 6 '07 - 02:09PM    #
  12. Last night Council gave City Administrator Roger Fraser a bonus and gave City Attorney Stephen Postema a raise. If you blinked, you would have missed it.

    According to Sabra, during previous Council meetings which she had attended, Leigh Greden had urged people to “get their forms in”. Sabra didn’t know what that meant.

    Then, last night, on Greden’s motion, Council went into closed session to discuss personnel. When Council came back into open session, two resolutions were adopted. However, the public was not informed of the titles or subject matter of the resolution. Instead, both resolutions were adopted without discussion, furtively.

    After the meeting, Sabra asked Steve Kunselman what had happened. Kunselman said they had just given a bonus to Fraser and a raise to Postema. Sabra did not find out the amounts of the bonus and raise.

    Compensation for senior staff is normally handled in the spring. Greden and Company must be absolutely petrified of the incoming Council members to pass out increased compensation at the last meeting before the new people take office!


       —David Cahill    Nov. 6 '07 - 03:37PM    #
  13. MLive has a useful timeline of the old YMCA project


       —HD    Nov. 6 '07 - 04:12PM    #
  14. Corrected link to timeline of the old YMCA project


       —HD    Nov. 6 '07 - 04:14PM    #
  15. I don’t usually correct David, but I think, between my tiredness (Council lasted until nearly midnight) and his tiredness (he was LISTENING to me, afterall) he somehow misunderstood me.

    1. I knew that Leigh Greden was asking Councilmembers to get their evaluations turned in.

    2. It was clear that the resolutions concerned Mr. Postema and Mr. Fraser. However, it wasn’t clear HOW the resolutions concerned them — other than involving vacation time, the only benefit explicitly mentioned.

    Tired people sometimes miscommunicate. Other than that, David’s report is correct.

    Sabra


       —Sabra Briere    Nov. 6 '07 - 06:44PM    #
  16. “After the meeting, Sabra asked Steve Kunselman what had happened.”

    I see a lot of this coming in the years ahead.


       —imjustsayin    Nov. 6 '07 - 06:47PM    #
  17. If #16 was meant to imply that Ms. Briere wasn’t paying attention, it should be noted that she was seated in the audience, not at the council table. She wouldn’t have been able to have full information since some business was in the closed meeting and the resolutions weren’t given to the public.


       —anonymous too    Nov. 6 '07 - 07:47PM    #
  18. I stand by my report. Sabra must have forgotten she mentioned (repeatedly) a bonus for Fraser and a raise for Postema.

    It may be some time before we find out what the resolutions said. The Clerk’s Office is re-doing its software, and as of a couple of days ago no copies of previously-approved resolutions or ordinances were available on its website.


       —David Cahill    Nov. 6 '07 - 07:57PM    #
  19. I hope Mrs. Briere has been listening to the Public Comments for divesting from Israel, and that she is prepared to act on them. After all, the Human Rights Commission unanimously recommended divestment to the Council, several years ago.


       —Listen    Nov. 6 '07 - 10:10PM    #
  20. Lost a bit in the shuffle of the elections was the vote by Council on Monday to temporarily suspend the sidewalk repair/replacement program for a few months so that various concerns can be addressed.

    The program entails a City inspector marking slabs judged to need replacement, documenting the slabs, and notifying homeowners, who are then responsible for contracting and paying for the needed work on the sidewalk in front of their house.

    The rationale offered at the table for this suspension seemed to be based on anecdotal homeowner feedback that they are pissed—about having to pay for it, about having to arrange for a contractor, about their perception that their slabs were not fairly judged.

    We’re a couple of years into the program now. The news that homeowners are pissed is pretty stale. A lot of homeowners have successfully met their civic and legal obligation to replace their deteriorated slabs. Based on the deliberations at the table, I didn’t hear anything that convinced me that a suspension of the program was warranted, nor was it clear what the specific goal of the suspension was. Appeal to a vague notion of ‘working out the bugs’ just was not very compelling to me.

    But my thinking on this is affected by a busted ankle, just now healing, which is attributable in part to my own lack of grace, but also in part to a marked sidewalk slab, not yet replaced.


       —HD    Nov. 7 '07 - 05:57PM    #
  21. I agree with HD. Suspending the Program now is an insult to the folks who stepped up and replaced their slabs when notified. One of my neighbors, an older woman of limited means who happens to have a home on a corner, got nailed for like ten slabs, several of which were attributable to a crappy, falling apart street-tree that the city won’t let her cut down. She must have called the contractor the day she got her notice because her slabs were replaced almost instantly. And with no bitching. Meanwhile people from much wealthier neighborhoods are writing letters to the Ann Arbor News, moaning like someone just kneed them in the nuts, while wheelchairs users have to go out in the street to get past their houses.

    And I’d bet ten bucks that the bastards who complain about sidewalk replacement are also the last people on the block to shovel after a snowstorm. Because it’s so hard to shovel when the sidewalk’s all fucked up.


       —Parking Structure Dude!    Nov. 7 '07 - 06:53PM    #
  22. “And I’d bet ten bucks that the bastards who complain about sidewalk replacement are also the last people on the block to shovel after a snowstorm.”

    Yet another example as to why you can’t leave expenditures on infrastructure up to citizens.


       —todd    Nov. 7 '07 - 07:00PM    #
  23. Marcia Higgins is leading the charge on this. She told Council caucus on Sunday evening that the City is using hastily-trained students to do the inspections, and that the determinations of whether or not slabs need to be replaced are not consistent. There was some loose talk about forming a Council committee with one Councilmember from each ward. I don’t know if anything will come of it.


       —David Cahill    Nov. 7 '07 - 07:29PM    #
  24. Damn those hastily-trained students! Zounds! Is there no ill they will not foist upon the city?


       —Dale    Nov. 7 '07 - 07:43PM    #
  25. “And I’d bet ten bucks that the bastards who complain about sidewalk replacement are also the last people on the block to shovel after a snowstorm.”

    Actually, no, not all of them. We have yet to replace our sidewalks (which were marked over a year ago) and yet we are scrupulous about keeping them shoveled, as are most of our neighbors.

    So why haven’t we replaced our slabs? First of all, when they marked them, they seemed to only do the east/west streets in our neighborhood. Then several of the slabs they marked to replace looked fine (828 Greene got dinged for most of their brand-new slabs), but others that were entirely broken up weren’t marked. Some houses seemed to be skipped altogether. So we waited a few weeks for the rest of the streets to be finished, but nothing happened. Eventually we called the city and made an arrangement to meet with one of the inspectors so they could explain what was going on. He came out and met with us and spent an hour walking around and apologizing for the entirely random manner in which the slabs had been marked. He couldn’t understand why some had been marked or not marked either and said that it needed to be redone (which never has happened). When we commented that it seemed like only the east/west streets had been marked, he explained that they were most likely streets that were leftovers from the year before because they were already a year behind. We want to band together as neighbors because it is a lot cheaper to fix a lot of slabs at once, but didn’t want to find a contractor until all the streets were marked (it is a small area and entirely contained so marking all the streets make sense). The north/south streets have still not been marked. We asked him what we should do about the part of our front sidewalk that gets a permanent puddle in it and he explained that we couldn’t fix it because the angles of the street, the extension, the sidewalk, and the house were such that any fix we attempted to do would be marked as bad by the city (all slabs have to angle a certain degree away from the house and since our house is on a slope, we can’t actually do that). He said the city would have to come out and put in a drain of some sort on the street or extension in order to fix the problem.

    The contractors are a huge issue. Currently there are no recommended contractors offered through the city. Yet the city knows what they want out of these sidewalks (since they are city property after all) and have very exacting specifications. Like many other cities, Ann Arbor could pick an official contractor each year and give a deal to the people who use the preferred contractor. We have gotten estimates from $190/slab to $500/slab. We have about ten slabs that need to be replaced. Heck yeah, we want to know exactly what needs to be replaced, we want to pick a contractor the city approves of, and we want to know that the job can be done correctly. This is not an unusual request. In doing a quick check around, Ann Arbor seems to have the worst option for sidewalk repairs for homeowners. All we are given is marks on random sidewalks. We never even got an explanation of what the marks were. There is no financial help, no explanations, no attempt to even get a good price for replacement slabs. Here are some quick examples of options other cities use: Madison, WI, Boulder County, CO, Palatine, IL, Florissant, MO, Fairfield, OH Sheboygan, WI, Ogdensburg, NY, Royal Oak, MI.

    I think suspending the program and taking another look at the options is a long-overdue idea.


       —Juliew    Nov. 7 '07 - 10:18PM    #
  26. I stand corrected. Some of the people moaning like they’ve been kneed in the nuts are in fact scrupulous clearers of sidewalk snow.


       —Parking Structure Dude!    Nov. 7 '07 - 10:54PM    #
  27. There’s a list of contractors the City calls ‘pre-qualified’ on the City’s website.

    What makes them ‘qualified’ from the City’s point of view, I’m not sure, but it would make sense if part of making it into the list was adherence to some sort of standardized price schedule.

    As far as the haphazard marking of slabs goes, my understanding was that there was some mechanism by which appeal could be made for mis-marking, and that a reassessment could be made without a trip by an inspector to the sidewalk, based on the digital photograph of the slab that was supposed to be taken. I have no direct experience with this—I’m relying on my recollection of a friend’s anecdotal account who had his slabs marked, spent an afternoon in various City offices, marveled that his slabs were right there on the guy’s computer screen, and subsequently had his slabs re-poured. But I might have dreamed that one day while I was staring at the spawled concrete on the sidewalk in front of my house.

    If there are issues with accurate and timely execution of the slab marking, the obviously the City needs to address it. It’s just not clear to me how a ‘suspension of the program’ by City Council helps. A specific admonition from Council to discontinue marking of additional slabs until some specific criteria can be satisfied would make more sense to me. For all I know, though, that’s exactly what ‘suspending the program’ means.

    I just feel like we’re being set up for a temporary suspension that becomes a permanent elimination of the program when the City gets a case of the fuckits—which actually works great for me, because my street’s not scheduled for marking for quite a while.


       —HD    Nov. 7 '07 - 11:20PM    #
  28. HD, I actually think that in practice, the program hasn’t really been running for a while. We heard rumors months ago that it had sort of fallen apart. I think they are marking, but there isn’t any follow-up. As I said, we were marked over a year ago, but never got informational and follow-up letters that were supposed to be sent out and they were already a year behind schedule. So I think it is reasonable to at least take a look at what is going on.

    Interesting about the appeal process. I hadn’t heard about that and the inspector who came to look at ours never said anything about it.

    All the “pre-qualified” means is that someone called numbers out of the Yellow Pages and asked them if they were willing to do residential sidewalks. As their note says: “Inclusion does not imply endorsement, or that a contractor is currently licensed in the State of Michigan.”


       —Juliew    Nov. 7 '07 - 11:45PM    #
  29. Juliew wrote: “As their note says: ‘Inclusion does not imply endorsement, or that a contractor is currently licensed in the State of Michigan.’ “

    Oh. I didn’t read past the title of the list. Two years ago I did a DIY concrete front step using a custom form featuring a bumped out rounded doodad all historical-like and stuff. So maybe I can get myself on the list.


       —HD    Nov. 8 '07 - 04:24AM    #
  30. Video of the November 5 Council meeting is now posted.


       —Juliew    Nov. 21 '07 - 04:19AM    #
  31. Speaking as someone who walks a lot of sidewalks, I can testify to the inconsistency of the marking process. Many slabs are marked for no apparent reason, and tripping hazards were skipped over. Take a walk through the Dicken School neighborhood for plenty of examples.

    Four of the slabs in front of my house were marked (at least two of those clearly needed to be replaced). They left a flyer for us, apparently loose on the stoop, which blew into the garage and turned up months later.

    Ultimately, a contractor who had been engaged to replace four slabs in front of a neighbor’s house tore up our four marked slabs by mistake. He profusely apologized, and offered to replace them for $100 each. So we accidentally ended up with a very good deal.

    We were out of town for the actual concrete pouring, which caused me no end of anxiety. As a child, I remember the family keeping watch in shifts over fresh concrete in front of our house, so as to prevent kids from writing in it. But we returned home to find the unwatched new sidewalk unmarked. I guess writing in wet cement has become technologically outmoded.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Nov. 22 '07 - 06:37PM    #