Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

City Council: President's Day Golfing Special

19. February 2008 • Juliew
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Tuesday, February 19 (one day later due to President’s Day holiday) at 7:00 pm.
Ann Arbor City HallCity Council Agenda

Highlights:

  • Rezoning of portions of Lower Burns Park neighborhood from R4C (Multiple-Family Dwelling District) to R1D.

  • Reconsideration of approval of liquor license for golf course .
  • Resolution to approve Golf Course Deficit Elimination Plan as of June 30, 2007 (response to letter from the State) (added after newspaper deadline).
  • Resolution to reduce fees at the city’s golf courses effective for the 2008 golf season and increase the senior citizen qualification age (added after newspaper deadline).
  • Resolution to approve review of Central Area Plan.
  • Request for proposals for 415 W. Washington Street.


  1. The RFP for 415 W. Washington has already made for a lot of discussion and there will surely be more, since there are a lot of conflicting visions for this property. Recall that the Greenway Task Force was not able to make a unanimous recommendation for it.

    The item is under reports from the City Administrator rather than as an action item for council. It is scheduled to be issued Feb. 28, proposals due April 24, and approval by council July 21.

    I apologize for the long clip following but it is not accessible by a simple link. Some people have commented on the fact that the inclusion of a moneymaking requirement may preclude some public uses.

    ———

    Site Development Objectives
    A successful proposal must address all of the following site development objectives:

    1. Beneficial use of the site. Any proposal for this site must demonstrate a clear benefit to the community and be consistent with the recommendations of the Downtown Plan, Central Area Plan, the Flood Mitigation Plan and the Old West Side Historic District regulations. Preference will be given to proposals that incorporate a use (or uses) that provides a publicly available service to the community, for instance, building space that may be used for public meetings and civic or cultural events. Additional consideration will be given for the development of dwelling units affordable to downtown workers earning between 60% and 80% of Area Median Income (AMI), as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

    2. Public greenway linkage. The floodway portion of the site should be reserved in some manner as open space for the Allen Creek Greenway. Within this open space, the purchaser must provide, at minimum, a continuous and barrier-free public pathway between Liberty and Washington Streets and distinctive wayfinding elements. Additional consideration will be given for the construction of public amenities that respond to the recommendations of the Allen Creek Greenway report, such as areas for sitting and gathering, rain gardens, and public art. The proposal should include provisions for long-term maintenance of the public elements by the applicant.

    3. Flood risk mitigation. A successful proposal will employ the best management practices identified in the City of Ann Arbor Flood Mitigation Plan. Any redevelopment/reuse of existing structures must incorporate flood resistant construction standards. Any new structures proposed should follow the recommendations for “A New Standard” identified in the plan. The Mitigation Plan also recommends (see Project #25) that parking should not be located in portions of the 100-year floodway that exceed 2 feet in depth, a condition characteristic of this site.

    4. Environmental benefits. The development proposal should incorporate to the greatest extent possible environmentally sensitive design and energy efficiency features that follow Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. Preference will be given to proposals that reuse or rehabilitate existing structures, consistent with historic district standards. In addition, the project should propose innovative and environmentally friendly runoff water management and seek to improve water quality within the Allen Creek watershed.

    5. Historic preservation. The project design must respect the historic character of the surrounding neighborhood and comply with the Old West Side historic district regulations. The site design must exhibit pedestrian-friendly treatment of all street frontages, consistent with the downtown design guidelines.

    6. Financial return. The proposal must provide a positive financial return to the City. In the absence of other considerations, the City has a fiduciary responsibility to obtain fair market value upon the sale of City assets. Long-term lease or other property arrangements will be considered, but must meet this financial return criterion.


       —Vivienne Armentrout    Feb. 19 '08 - 03:23PM    #
  2. Something unusual is going on with regard to item DC-6, the resolution that claims an emergency because of a letter from the state Department of Treasury threatening the withholding of state revenue sharing money because the City’s golf course fund was in deficit at the end of the last fiscal year.

    The letter relies on a statute, Michigan Compiled Laws 141.921, which states that if a “local unit of government” ends its fiscal year in a deficit, the local unit is required to file a deficit reduction plan with the Department of Treasury.

    The “local unit of government” is the entire City government. The City as a whole was not in deficit, just this one fund. The statute does not give the Department the authority to leaf through the City’s audit report, pick out an isolated fund, and start making threats.

    I think the Department exceeded its authority.


       —David Cahill    Feb. 19 '08 - 05:16PM    #
  3. The vote to reconsider the liquor license award passed. So Council is now considering it. Higgens will be the crucial vote. She’s weighing in now. It’s sounding grim for Everyday Cook. And … now she’s speaking in favor of issuance to Leslie Park. Suarez makes a pretty persuasive last-ditch plea couched in terms of the erosion of the Ann Arbor brand, measured in millions of dollars, as compared with the cost of the liquor license, measured in thousands of dollars.

    Vote went for Leslie Park again.


       —HD    Feb. 20 '08 - 03:10AM    #
  4. Golden Avenue rezoning was approved. We used to live at 1414 Golden and it, like my neighborhood, doesn’t need boondoggles like 828 Greene Street (which perpetually has rooms/apartments available, should any of you need a place to live).

    One thing that really made me mad was the comment from one person (representing some apartment association) who talked about how the rental houses sell for so much above an owner-occupied house which he seemed to think was a good thing (and the rezoning in no way precludes rental). Of course, this is exactly the problem and why houses in these downtown neighborhoods are so randomly priced (by as much as $200,000 difference for houses of similar size and conditions!) and the assessed values and taxes are high. The speculative buying and flipping of houses with the assumption that students will pile in and pay anything means they end up too expensive for families or single people to buy, and more expensive for renters to rent.

    HD, I’m glad you are watching this too because I was getting confused about the vote. Leslie Park did get the vote again. The Council Members are all glaring at each other now, which is somewhat entertaining. They also approved the reimbursement of the $100 fee to those businesses who applied but did not get the license.

    The sound tonight is horrible. It seems like the sensitivity is turned up way too high and so is picking up murmurs from several of the microphones (again, that is kind of funny) but it also has a horrible background buzzing sound.

    Ooh, now Easthope is getting pissy about the Golf Course consultants.


       —Juliew    Feb. 20 '08 - 03:18AM    #
  5. Hmm, now Suarez has threatened to move his business to New York and has suggested that anyone who wants unfettered network access (the city hall network must be locked down) should go to their nearest Starbucks. Come on Ron, just ‘cause you are annoyed, you should at least suggest a local coffee shop—Primo is right down the street after all.


       —Juliew    Feb. 20 '08 - 03:33AM    #
  6. Juliew wrote: “ ... Suarez has threatened to move his business to New York”

    Was this a part of the same turn where he went down a weird (to me) path involving a meeting that Bob Johnson was 20-minutes late to, and how the golf course consultant had related to him how Michael Finney (of SPARK) had a potential buyer for Huron Hills—this in the context of Suarez’s interest in a business accelerator grant from SPARK? I had the sense I was missing some bit of background to understand how this fit together to with the $100 refund to liquor license applicants I thought they were discussing. So I didn’t watch to the end of his remarks. (There’s Idol on tonight.)

    Juliew, were you tracking close enough to provide the missing context?


       —HD    Feb. 20 '08 - 04:01AM    #
  7. Yeah, it was part of that same turn and I don’t think there was missing context. Or if there was, I didn’t get it either. I can clarify that Bob Johnson never showed up to the meeting. Does that help? But the whole SPARK, Huron Hills, business accelerator, covert operation thing made no sense to me.


       —Juliew    Feb. 20 '08 - 04:17AM    #
  8. It may have merely been a complete coincidence that the golf consultant told me Michael Finney, the head of Spark, had a buyer in hand for Huron Hills golf course, while he was laying out options for the golf course to me. I have no reason to assume that anything wrong was going on when I was being told this, after telling the consultant that I had nothing to gain or lose by how I voted on the golf course and the liquor license. The fact is that the only local connection my business would possibly have is that I had been telling people I was considering applying for a business accelerator grant from Spark. So, the fact that this was thrown in my face right after saying I had nothing to gain or lose, was at a minimum quite a coincidence.

    The incident speaks to the brand of Ann Arbor and the perception we create by actions like awarding the liquor license to the City. The question is whether the local government and those associated with it behave in a way that makes a local business feel there is a fair opportunity to compete. It may very well be that I would be treated very fairly in a Spark competition. But, the fact that a coincidence involving Spark had been put in my face, makes me think about the value of my time and whether it would be wasted applying for a business accelerator grant from Spark. If there is even a low probability that I would not be treated fairly, then it would be a very bad use of my time, vs. focusing on approaching investors and opportunities outside of Michigan.

    I feel very bad for us as a community. The perception of our City has been tarnished by the City awarding the liquor license to itself and wasting the time of local businesses who I know put in countless hours during the competition for this quota liquor license, when they never had a chance.

    On another topic, I would invite people to see the RFP for 415 West Washington and please enter your comments on another blog I started.


       —Ron Suarez    Feb. 20 '08 - 04:41AM    #
  9. Ron-
    You’re missing what I think is Julie’s point: your experiences and theories regarding your hypothetical application to Spark are totally, completely, unrelated to the liquor license and the consultant’s comment about selling the golf course. Spark has nothing to do with the City (other than the small amount of money the City provides to Spark), and certainly has nothing to do with the golf courses, the golf consultant, or the liquor license. Your comments made no sense.


       —Bill T.    Feb. 20 '08 - 05:00AM    #
  10. But, the fact that a coincidence involving Spark had been put in my face
    But couldn’t the coincidence have been because you were looking at the golf course? Since Huron Hills was never in the running for a liquor license, I’m not sure I understand your concern. I mean, there weren’t many people who could have had a buyer for Huron Hills so that would have been interesting news, especially for a Council member looking at a city golf course.

    The perception of our City has been tarnished by the City awarding the liquor license to itself
    I don’t agree. The City could have just awarded itself the license without ever opening it up to such public debate. The golf course is used by more people than ever set foot into Everyday Cook so it is a reasonable “greater good” move. At least Everyday Cook, Sweetwaters, and Cafe Japon can all qualify for a liquor license under the proposed DDA area so they are not necessarily out of the ability to serve alcohol. It will not be the sellable asset that a Class C liquor license is, but I don’t agree with the buying and selling of liquor licenses anyway.

    Oh, and thanks for changing your recommended cafe to Sweetwaters instead of Starbucks!


       —Juliew    Feb. 20 '08 - 05:16AM    #
  11. Ron,

    Okay, I’m not following you.

    This much I think I get.

    A. You’d been talking opening in the community about the idea that maybe you’d like to apply for a business accelerator grant from SPARK.

    B. You say to the golf consultant: “I have nothing to gain or lose based on how I vote on the golf course and liquor license.”

    C. Golf Consultant says, “Michael Finney, the director of SPARK, knows a buyer who’s interested in buying Huron Hills.”

    D. You considered the possibility that you, in fact, were wrong in thinking that how you voted on the golf course would have no effect your business, because you realized that there was some possibility that your golf course vote would have a negative impact on your prospects to get a SPARK accelerator grant.

    So my question is: how do A, B, and C lead to D?
    Was it something about the tone of voice or overall demeanor used by the golf consultant? Since you characterize it as being ‘thrown in your face’ I have to think there was some extra intonational flourish, or some body language, a wink a nudge, something. Or do you think Michael Finney is the kind of guy who retaliates against City Council members who don’t vote his way? Frankly, I can’t even tell what the right vote would be from Michael Finney’s point of view, if he’s got a buyer lined up. Does Finney get a real estate commission on the deal? What’s in it for him and SPARK if the deal went through? You’d need a voter referendum to sell Huron Hills anyway, so would Finney deny business accelerator grants to any voter who voted against a referendum to sell Huron Hills?

    I would think that what SPARK would remember mostly in considering your application for an accelerator grant would be your Council vote to allocate SPARK $50K from the City of Ann Arbor. I’d think you’d be thinking, Hey, I gave this outfit $50K, they’re gonna like this application.

    But however you get from A, B, and C to D, none of it bears on the question Council was deliberating, which was: Do we refund the $100 to applicants for the liquor license?

    I think the rhetorical point you might have made more briefly, and less histrionically was, “As a businessman, I would not invest valuable time in an application process awarding an asset, if I believed it was a pre-determined outcome not in my favor. This process for awarding the liquor license will at least be perceived to have had a pre-determined outcome. We should at least acknowledge this by refunding the application fees of the unsuccessful applicants.”


       —HD    Feb. 20 '08 - 05:58AM    #
  12. So, do Bill T. and HD have real names? That is one complaint I have heard from other readers of Arbor Update. I get the concept of screen-names, but I incorrectly thought Bill T. was Bill Tozier. I think I met Julie at Dominick’s once.

    At least this is not Baltimore. I just finished watching an episode of the Wire, which I highly recommend as a critique of our society. The new season is focused on the media, but the Mayor and City Council are still a major element. You can find it through surfthechannel.com, which is based in Sweden and doesn’t follow DMCA (digital millenium copyright act) policy.

    Maybe there’s a 95% probability that the incident (Spark – golf consultant) was a coincidence. For the sake of my cognitive dissonance in coping with this circumstance, I’d prefer it that way.

    But, that is not the point. Marketing and branding of the City of Ann Arbor is about the perception created, regardless of the reality. It is not about predicate logic. It is about how people’s opinion is affected by the way in which the City behaves towards the citizens.

    I guess I have just been feeling like I’m working for Nottingham with all the forced annexations and the “liquor license” becoming the equivalent of the “kings deer” which should not be poached by some small business not matter how much they give to the community. OK, even I can hear the violins now, so I’ll stop and say that life in Ann Arbor is clearly not as bad as Baltimore is portrayed in the Wire. On the other hand, the Baltimore, of HBO’s Wired, does also have some very positive characters fighting to make a change, despite their surroundings.


       —Ronald R Suarez    Feb. 20 '08 - 07:48AM    #
  13. I had high hopes when Suarez was first elected but he has fizzled. He seems like the least prepared, most ineffective council member. On top of that he can be counted on to occasionally babble on about his latest paranoid conspiracy theory as he did tonight.

    He touts himself as an IT genius. Back when they were doing the budget, he said the city was wasting “millions” in IT. But last month when a whole working session was devoted to IT and the IT budget he said almost nothing and ended up praising the IT director. He has yet to bring forth any proposal to change IT in the city. Maybe he looked into it and decided everything was OK, if that was the case then I take it back… but still, he needs to get together if he is going to run again and he needs to do some homework.

    I recall watching a council meeting where he basically said the work was way more than he had time for and the 3% raise council was receiving was worth “a latte a week.” Maybe he will retire.


       —LauraB    Feb. 20 '08 - 07:48AM    #
  14. Look Laura, I’m sorry if I am disappointing you, but I’m just not good at pretending everything is ok, when it isn’t. I am blunt and perhaps that’s not good for a politician. To the extent I continue doing much more in politics, I would probably be better as a consultant, willing to tell truth to power. I am just not the person willing to do a lot of back slapping with other Michigan politicians and “leaders,” who want to congratulate each other about what a great job we’re doing despite the demise of the auto industry. If Michigan is going to come out of the mess we are in, then a lot of people have to become much more adaptive and willing to try and learn some new things.

    Also Laura – I am smart, but I never said I was a genius. The City is spending much more than they should on IT. I believe the IT director Dan Rainey is very knowledgeable, but that the City as an organization does not give him the authority he could use to be much more efficient. This is not about me reviewing their spreadsheets to see if they know how to add numbers.

    From my perspective, I see Dan taking his direction from Tom Crawford and I think there should be a CTO position with more authority over IT decisions rather than having those decisions driven by the CFO and the administrator.

    I also think that the people who are the stakeholders for all the very expensive software we’ve been buying are not being consulted. For example, as a a member of Council, that should make me a stakeholder and a participant in “requirements gathering” before purchasing a software system that compiles the agenda for my City Council meetings.


       —Ronald R Suarez    Feb. 20 '08 - 08:21AM    #
  15. Sounds as though HD should invite Ron Suarez onto his teeter totter .


       —anonymous too    Feb. 20 '08 - 01:38PM    #
  16. Wow, just wow. When did Ann Arbor start talking about “its brand”? And if the idea to work on Ann Arbor’s “brand” came out of city council, has the city truly considered what that brand realistically is and how to develop elements and messages that are consistent with the brand? Has the city hired a consultant who’s done a brand audit? (It sounds scarily like a consultant’s idea — a consultant who doesn’t have any actual brand management experience).

    If you asked 10,000 people familiar with A2 to list Ann Arbor’s top 15 brand elements, I can promise you that “great place to pay golf” would not be on the list. Depending on generation, you might hear things like, “funky shops” or “good restaurants” or “lots of bookstores” or “terrible weather”, but WHY would anyone on city council say that granting a liquor license to the golf course is consistent with A2’s brand?

    Reliance on whatever report generated this brand idea sounds like a spectacularly bad move.

    (sorry I wasn’t there, if there is anything online about this branding idea and its consistency with golf courses, feel free to just post a link).


       —Anna    Feb. 20 '08 - 01:59PM    #
  17. I don’t follow the details of council enough to be able to rate Ron’s performance compared to the his council cohorts. But I’ll give Ron credit for showing up here and saying what he thinks, not just blowing smoke like many politicians would be apt to do. I also appreciate that Ron is willing to go public on his blog with his positions on the hot issues. Whether I agree with him or not on a specific issue, it at least displays a willingness to expand the debate beyond the council meetings and explain why he voted the way he did. How many on council can say they are doing the same? I also think he should get credit for making an effort to undo what he saw as damage to Ann Arbor’s perception in the business community by pushing for a refund of the liquor license fee. It’s not how things normally work and he showed a willingness to do things differently when he viewed the current system as being unfair.


       —John Q.    Feb. 20 '08 - 02:04PM    #
  18. Laura: I bet that Mr. Suarez will be running again. At the same meeting where he said the council raise was equivalent “to a latte a week” he also said; “I live on my council salary.” My guess is he needs the money.


       —Dustin    Feb. 20 '08 - 04:09PM    #
  19. John Q. Most council members explain the reasons for their vote at the council table. Most will also write back if you write them. I don’t judge council members by who has time to hang out on blogs.

    The mayor, not Mr. Saurez sponsored the resolution to refund the $100 fees.

    Perhaps I was too hard on Mr. Suarez, if so I apologize but the paranoid nature of many of the things he says has me worried too. Not to mention the twisted logic as noted by HD above.


       —LauraB    Feb. 20 '08 - 04:19PM    #
  20. “So, do Bill T. and HD have real names?”

    Crap. I have clearly overestimated the value and recognition of the HD brand.

    Perhaps I need to apply for a business accelerator grant from SPARK to speed along this strategy

    I hope that SPARK doesn’t hold a grudge because I suggested during Conan Smith’s totter ride that as long as SPARK doesn’t stand for anything (the letters in the name, not the organization), they might as well rename it SPARQ, because it’s more fun that way.

    Yeah, now that I think about it, they probably would take that bit of totter teasing the wrong way and not give me a fair shot, so I probably shouldn’t even invest my time inquiring about a SPARK grant.

    Apparently, I should instead spend that time watching television. But why watch the Wire, when there’s a cute girl-robot on FOX? Ooooh, wait a minute … totter-vision. That’s what I need to do. Of course whoever holds the rights to the mark HD as it applies to TV might object (it’s real name is ‘high definition’), so I shouldn’t bother to try that either.


       —HD    Feb. 20 '08 - 05:30PM    #
  21. Anna wrote: “... but WHY would anyone on city council say that granting a liquor license to the golf course is consistent with A2’s brand?”

    The point about branding made last night by Suarez was that granting the license to the golf course would erode the value Ann Arbor’s brand, not that it would be consistent with it.


       —HD    Feb. 20 '08 - 05:33PM    #
  22. If I have come across as paranoid, than I have done a bad job of expressing what I consider to be my healthy cynicism. And, I certainly am not accusing Michael Finney of any wrong doing or conspiracy. The incident described above was simply too coincidental to not affect my decision about what would or would not be a waste of my time. And, that was my main point, i.e. “what is the perception that the local leaders and consultants who work for them are creating about our community?” And this is related directly to what I felt was going on with the position of Everyday Cook. The fact is that I am not on Finney’s radar. At least not until now. My company is too small for him to think much about me one way or the other. Being an IT person on Council has made no difference in whether or not Finney seems to notice whether I exist. He has bigger fish to fry and I am in the music business – not a priority for Michigan revitalization.

    I guess I should have realized that HD was “Homeless Dave” and married to Mary Morgan of the Ann Arbor News.

    The concept of Ann Arbor as a “brand” did not come out of City Council. It is largely the result of Spark and State of Michigan funded efforts to restore our local economy. The idea is to attract both business and talent to the area.

    I have seen my kids who were born and raised in Ann Arbor leave for better opportunities. I have seen some of the best IT talent leave Ann Arbor for the west coast. I have artist friends who were driven out of Ann Arbor with what happened at the tech center. And a number of my friends in the music community relocated to Brooklyn in the past year. I don’t have a problem with people leaving because their individual career will advance. I do have a problem when we as a State end up suffering because of problems retaining talented people and attracting new talent.

    I have started collecting signatures for my re-election, but I’d be interested in meeting anyone from the first ward who would like to work with me to help improve what goes on in council. And, if someone really progressive and supportive of transparency in government were to step up, then I would seriously consider stepping aside.

    I am pleased that a few people in this blog want to actually talk about the issues, as opposed to debate about whether I am fizzling or re-electable. I entered into this because I wanted to promote more openness in government and because I was concerned that we as a community were losing what has made me love Ann Arbor in the past. However, the closer I have gotten to the machinery that runs things here, the more I feel like someone who used to love sausage, until he visited the sausage factory.

    One thing that was very encouraging for me last night was that the Council vote did not divide along a predictable split vote. I am very pleased to have heard both Joan Lowenstein and Chris Easthope speak about the impression we create for local business. It has reduced my cynicism about Council voting on predictable lines without thoughtful consideration of the impact on the citizens.


       —Ronald R Suarez    Feb. 20 '08 - 06:04PM    #
  23. Ron Suarez wrote: “I guess I should have realized that HD was “Homeless Dave” and married to Mary Morgan of the Ann Arbor News.”

    What about this discussion should have made you realize anything about my marital status? And what exactly is the relevance of my marital status to this discussion? Certainly the value of the Ann Arbor News brand is not terribly strong these days in general, even less so on AU. So maybe it’s that you think that establishing an association with a weak brand somehow erodes the merit of the criticism I’ve made of your council performance AU?

    As you might imagine, Ron, recruiting guests is a challenge. Now, the fact of my spouses’s identity probably doesn’t matter to most potential guests one way or another. For others, it could either be a help or a hindrance. Some people might volunteer to ride because they erroneously think that it will help curry favor with the A2 News, whatever that might be worth, or because they figure erroneously that the enterprise must have some sort of journalistic merit because I’m married to a journalist. Some people might decline to ride, because they think the A2 News is a shitty paper and they don’t want to have anything to do with anybody who’s married to someone who works for the A2 News, because they think the journalists who work for the News suck, so I must probably suck, too.

    So the vast majority of guests have no idea who I’m married to before or after showing up to ride. That is because I do not myself publicize this fact—because it introduces a complication having nothing to do with my enterprise. I don’t want people to participate or to decline to participate based on who I’m married to. Or based on any cool teeter tottering swag they might imagine they’ll receive. That said, if asked, I am certainly upfront with people about who I’m married to. It’s not a secret, I’m not ashamed of who I’m married to, and many people in the community are already aware of this relationship.

    But from my point of view, you’ve made my recruitment challenge incrementally more difficult and complicated by publishing your gratuitous comment here on AU.

    Maybe you’ll think of a way to make it up to me.


       —HD    Feb. 20 '08 - 07:55PM    #
  24. Now who is paranoid? 8-)


       —David Cahill    Feb. 20 '08 - 10:34PM    #
  25. “Now who is paranoid? 8-)”

    I was about to make fun of you for missing the joke, and then I said: “oh no, wait, what if David’s just playing it straight, and the joke’s on me? I could be falling into a trap!”


       —Bruce Fields    Feb. 21 '08 - 12:09AM    #
  26. Relax HD, I didn’t realize I was outing you or revealing a secret. I’ve known Mary since the mid 90’s, when she used to come to parties I threw at my old business and I am assuming that was her editorial about me in the News regarding the lattes. So it simply explained some of the context to me and that the two of you are people I have met in person, although you only for a moment, as opposed to faceless screen names.

    And, for what it is worth, I have information from my sources that many of the individuals at the Ann Arbor News are good people despite what many may think about the paper. I do think it is unfair to bash the Ann Arbor News as if they had the same resources as the NY Times.

    I may not be back online here at this blog for a while, but I hope I can return and look forward to some real discussion. I didn’t get on here to debate anyone and I do believe that blogs offer a hope of more open discussion between elected officials and the public.

    I’ll be busy for a while attending Digital Music East and meeting others interested in disruptive technologies to change the music industry from a top down approach to become more grassroots oriented by leveraging things like social networking. I believe there are many parallels between what is happening in the music industry and the grassroots movement in politics as evidenced by citizen journalism and other new and exciting opportunities.

    Last night, I thought it was really cool that while I was still sitting in my council seat, I could see someone here already monitoring and commenting on what was going on in council. And I was happy to post something while council was still in session. I wish there could be more back and forth between council and the public during meetings, but we are very constrained by our various rules. Then, last night, I unfortunately let my self get drawn into a “debate” here in this blog. This group has the potential to become much more, if less effort went into debating and flame wars. So, I will be back, but not for a week or two.


       —Ron Suarez    Feb. 21 '08 - 01:17AM    #
  27. Ron, as a concerned citizen, I’m glad you’re on council. I’m grateful for any effort to make council more transparent and to increase opportunities for citizen participation. Thanks for your work.


       —Bo Knew    Feb. 21 '08 - 03:59AM    #
  28. “Relax HD, I didn’t realize I was outing you or revealing a secret.”

    Um, you weren’t. Cf. comment [25]. Or the part where I myself cryptically wrote, “It’s not a secret.”

    But I’m grateful you’ve brought me up to speed on what the hell my wife was doing back in the late 90’s. I was always a little dubious. The story Mary used to tell me was that she was covering the business beat as a reporter. And once in a while she’d come home really late after attending what she said were ‘networking events’ so that she could cultivate sources for like news and shit like that. I didn’t realize that she was just showing up to ‘parties’ for—let’s see, how did you put it on your blog, ‘for the free food’. God what a lying bitch. She would even eat another meal when she finally got home, saying that she found holding food and drink to be an obstacle to working the room effectively. She really thought through how to cover all her bases, I guess.

    I guess I’ll still always have the cute girl-robot from Terminator to keep me company.

    Earth to Ron: if you don’t like flame wars, then don’t use the council table to flame everyone in sight. Don’t use AU as a drive-by flame target. And don’t use your personal blog for personal put-downs. After more than a year on Council I think it’s a bit late to rehabilitate yourself by admonishing the readers of AU to desist from flame wars in a single blog comment.

    When you have established a substantial corpus of comments at the council table exactly like your two speaking turns on the liquor license, only then will the kumbahyah pose you’re now attempting have a chance of being convincing to me.

    What was good about those two speaking turns? I’ll tell you. You did not once mention your business, the music industry, your cool hip happening creative class friends, your trips to New York, your trips to Europe, your friends in real estate, any of your friends at all. You did not accuse anyone of participating in an evil culture or group-think, you did not vaguely accuse anyone of being on the take because their business is located in Ann Arbor, you did not read from a script, and you did not allow your cell phone to interrupt your remarks. You did not ask questions that revealed a fundamental lack of preparation. [For AU readers, who don’t watch Council deliberations, all of these things that were missing in those two turns are sometimes included in a Ron Suarez speaking turn.]

    Instead, you actually appealed to a fairly visceral image of the City as a machine feeding itself, but hypothetically, so that the impact of the image was not, “You guys believe in the City as a machine feeding itself, you fucking evil sons of bitches” but rather “If we award this liquor license to the City, then it would be like we believe in the City as a machine feeding itself, so let’s not do that, but believe in a City that feeds the community.” It was a subtle point to pull off, but you actually managed to pull it off.

    But guess what? I received an email from one CM last night almost immediately posting comment [3], in which the CM heaped shovelfuls of scorn on your plea to Higgens. It was described as ‘absurd’. I think some people at the Council table may have begun to reflexively think of what you say as absurd, without even listening to what you have to say. Unfair? Perhaps. But in any case a datapoint that is relevant to whether you think you have a chance of being effective on Council for a second term of service, and what you need to do to increase those chances.

    So, what I wrote back to that CM was that the reason I counted your remarks as ‘persuasive’ is that it represented a total contrast to your performance at the Council table to date and, I don’t think I’m deluding myself when I claim I managed to convince that CM that your basic perspective of ‘branding’ had merit, even if that CM remained unconvinced by the speculative nature of the dollar figures you offered. Maybe that CM was just humoring me. In any case, that’s YOUR job, to convince fellow Councilmembers that your basic perspective has merit. Your first speaking turn showed a similar contrast to previous performance. The reason it was a contrast is that your remarks were obviously designed as an attempt to persuade. They at least had the potential to be persuasive even if they did not turn out to change anyone’s mind.

    But then, in the subsequent deliberation about the $100 refund, it was a return to the Ron Suarez who rants and raves in a vaguely accusatory way about matters that appear to be included fairly gratuitously and apropos of nothing.

    So, which Ron Suarez will be back in a week or two? The good Ron Suarez, or the evil Ron Suarez? Or, holy crap, he said he … Would. Be. Back. So maybe it’ll be the cute boy-robot version of Ron Suarez.


       —HD    Feb. 21 '08 - 04:28AM    #
  29. HD has given some constructive criticism and I believe both his points and his intentions are good.

    Mr. Suarez’s greatest beef over time seems to be that somehow there is a conspiracy against him and doing the right thing as he sees it, and there is a lack of “transparency” from city council.

    He also says citizens are not involved enough but council appoints people every night to something like 50 citizen boards and commissions and a whole lot of what council does comes up from these boards.

    In public hearings and public comment people go on and on about their point of view and there is a caucus where anyone can go plus if you want to, call the mayor’s office and get an appointment with him, it’s easy.

    The city holds open workshops to explain any major project or initiative, Stadium Blvd, downtown rezoning, storm water, affordable housing downtown, the list goes on.

    It seems to me council is open to debate and a majority can be won over by a solid, fact based and logical argument. (I believe HD expresses this as well.) If you have a point to make be convincing rather than defensive and others will listen especially if the facts are on your side.

    Where is the lack of transparency? I don’t see how a city council could be more open. Whatever you cannot find on the web you can obtain by asking someone at the city or by writing your council member. Having lived in another city a while back I must say that A2 is way ahead on this point.

    Mr. Suarez mentions in a earlier post that he was encouraged that council did not vote in “blocks” on the liquor license issue. From my observations council members are quite independent and separate on issues as they should. Where is the “conspiracy?”

    Witness the major issue of the building of a new police station-court house. The mayor and council member Johnson were joined by Suarez and Kunselman in opposition. On the liquor license vote (that has been blown out of proportion) the minority was much different.

    Surely it takes time and work to be on council but it appears to be an open, deliberative body that gets things done.


       —Dustin    Feb. 21 '08 - 06:06AM    #
  30. Dustin, are you on the city payroll or are you a close relative of someone on the council? Or on Council? I ask because most of your postings have an undercurrent of “the city can do no wrong” and while I suppose a resident-at-large might have such a view, you’ve always been so consistent and insistent on that point that I’ve thought for a while that you must have some kind of connection to the city that frames that viewpoint. I’m not asking because I disagree with what you say but if there is such a connection, a little transparency might be in order.


       —John Q.    Feb. 21 '08 - 06:24AM    #
  31. God, I miss city council meetings.


       —Dale    Feb. 21 '08 - 06:26AM    #
  32. “... if there is such a connection, a little transparency might be in order.”

    John Q, the consistent and insistent position of Dustin’s postings defending the basic solidness of the way the City, the Council, and the Mayor’s Office function, will, I think be apparent not only to regular readers of AU, but also of AAiO. The apparent connection to the City based on the ‘undercurrent’ you notice is consistent with the ‘closeness’ of information Dustin has access to. It’s not just a random person who ‘hears’ that Suarez cleverly arranged things so that Everyday Cook would score higher on the matrix that was developed for evaluating the liquor license—a contention that I find dubious, by the way, given that Rapundalo (a guy with a scientific background, like Suarez) was also on the committee and active on it, judging from comments made at the Council table.

    In any case, John Q., what you notice is apparent to me as well.

    I’m not sure, though, that I share the view that Dustin should identify himself, or at least what his connection might be to the City. In general, I think anonymous posting has various merits.

    But maybe Dustin will give some additional context anyway, now that the question has been raised explicitly.


       —HD    Feb. 21 '08 - 03:05PM    #
  33. I don’t expect Dustin to reveal his/her real identity. As you can tell, I’m all for pseudonymity. But if there is a connection, a one-time acknowledgment of that is in order. All of us come to the discussion with our own biases. But I don’t like feeling like I’m being fed a line by someone who plays it off as comments by the average city resident. If that’s the case, fine. If Dustin does have a connection, that’s fine too. But at least we can judge the comments based on the source. I’ll acknowledge up front that I’m not on the city payroll and don’t have a close connection to anyone on council or the mayor although I’ve met several of them in person at least once.


       —John Q.    Feb. 21 '08 - 03:25PM    #
  34. “...I’ve thought for a while that you must have some kind of connection to the city…”

    That’s interesting that you’ve come to that conclusion, John Q., because I’ve just had this weird hunch for a long time that Dustin is that guy who does on-air pieces for Michigan Radio. I won’t mention his last name, but if you listen you’ve heard him. And it could totally be my imagination—maybe I just want to assign a voice to a name, establish a little order, or whatever. He just seems so sincere, so Boy Scouty.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t have a clue who you might be. Maybe an Econ professor? Or a real estate attorney?

    And we all know that Dave Cahill is Humpty Dumpty.

    I, of course, am really Ed Shaffran.


       —Parking Structure Dude!    Feb. 21 '08 - 03:38PM    #
  35. 1) I would like to see fewer pseudonyms used here.

    2) I do not want to encourage city officials to talk or think about Ann Arbor’s “brand.” We’re not a business. I would like people to be focusing on the underlying issues that make a city habitable.

    3) Although I am not at all a fan of golf courses (I think they are an egregious waste of huge quantities of beautiful land that should be public parks), I agree that giving the license to the golf course was likely a reasonable decision in a numeric sense. If it was foreordained, then the competition process is questionable.

    Fred


       —Fred Zimmerman    Feb. 21 '08 - 04:21PM    #
  36. I also don’t like screen names. As to “HD”, that stands for “Homeless Dave”, whose real name is Dave Askins. Cognoscenti of esoterica can find this and other fun facts out by doing a “whois” on “homelessdave.com”.

    I figure that John Q. is really Mayor Hieftje. Of course he won’t admit it.

    Parking Structure Dude has admitted that he and his wife are #$%^ Republicans, which is all I need to know.


       —David Cahill    Feb. 21 '08 - 05:28PM    #
  37. David, you’re as about as far off as Parking Structure Dude in your guess. But I’ll take it as a compliment and let you guess again.


       —John Q.    Feb. 21 '08 - 05:47PM    #
  38. “Parking Structure Dude has admitted that he and his wife are #$%^ Republicans….”

    Sorry, you’re off here too, Humpty. Mrs. Structure-Dude’s a Democrat and I’m an independent and we’re heavy (as in, like, almost $80) contributers to the Obama campaign. I only pretend to be a Republican for fear of being linked with the plutocrats who masquerade as Democrats in Ann Arbor.


       —Parking Structure Dude!    Feb. 21 '08 - 08:19PM    #
  39. Welcome to the Obama Campaign, PSD and Ms. SD! I’ve given $25 myself.

    With Obama’s victory in the Americans Abroad primary, announced today, he has won 11 contests in a row. It’s time for Clinton to think about being Vice President.


       —David Cahill    Feb. 21 '08 - 09:01PM    #
  40. David Cahill wrote:

    >>As to “HD”, that stands for “Homeless Dave”,

    Already established. In this very thread even.

    >>whose real name is Dave Askins.

    Already known to readers of publications like The Observer, The Michigan Daily, Metromode.

    >>Cognoscenti of esoterica can find this and other fun facts out by doing a “whois” on “homelessdave.com”.

    Among those fun facts available with a whois query is the street address where the teeter totter lives. I just returned to that address after hauling a load on my bicycle trailer.

    Totter 2.0, the mobile version, which I had left sitting on the porch after the last ride, is no longer there. Pretty amazing coincidence. But it’s totally my fault for leaving it out on the porch.

    I’m going look around the immediate neighborhood for a bit on the theory somebody merely ‘borrowed’ it or is just playing a prank. If so, then, Good one! But, um, can I have it back, now, please? Or at least send me some email letting me know what your intentions are?

    For people who don’t like screen names, and actually like flesh and blood bloggers, it’d be great if someone from Ann Arbor could go and check out Mark Maynard’s Beer with Bloggers tonight just to verify that his posse isn’t doing anything untoward with my totter. I don’t mind those guys riding it, but no sealer has been applied to the wood yet, so it wouldn’t be good to slop beer on it.

    But seriously, I don’t think it was Mark who took it. He’d ask first. So if anyone sees it out there somewhere, I’d sure appreciate a heads up.


       —HD    Feb. 21 '08 - 09:56PM    #
  41. HD, no sign of your totter at Beer With Bloggers. Though I wouldn’t put it past Mark and his Mayoral conscript to pull such a heist and demand your moving to Ypsi as the condition of its return.


       —Timothy Swoop    Feb. 22 '08 - 06:05AM    #
  42. Timothy Swoop wrote: “... no sign of your totter at Beer with Bloggers”

    Thanks for the report. No new developments overnight.

    “I wouldn’t put it past Mark and his Mayoral conscript”

    Because all the alums of the totter already knew where I live even before the unfortunate comment above, I suppose the list of suspects should as a matter of process include all of them … but Ypsi Mayor Paul Schreiber really does not seem like the sort of fellow who would do something like that. Plus, unless it were equipped with a electronic remote starter, I don’t imagine it would have much appeal to Paul.

    “demand your moving to Ypsi as the condition of its return.”

    Well, if a package shows up in the mail containing a splintered corner of the main span to prove they’ve got my totter, I would absolutely move to Ypsi to get it back. We might want to move to Ypsi anyway.


       —HD    Feb. 22 '08 - 03:23PM    #
  43. Someone took your totter?!?! (That sounds kind of dirty, in a way). What is the world coming to? I hope it was just a prank.
    My front porch duck disappeared once, and then it came back. It was kind of freaky. I take good care of that duck; she gets a new outfit every month to match the holiday decor of my house.
    For the record, my last name is Smith. [Yes, that makes my name Patti Smith. No, I never owned a store in Royal Oak (but I do have a pair of socks that say Patti Smith, which is pretty cool). No, I’m not a rock star. If I sang, your ears would bleed and pus from the sound.]
    :)


       —TeacherPatti    Feb. 22 '08 - 06:12PM    #
  44. John Q & HD: Before I attempt to answer to your inquiries let me ask you a question.

    There are several anonymous posters on AU and AAIO who are consistently negative about the city. Is it not possible they are themselves members of or related to a member of a group that is politically against the current administration?

    Have you questioned their identity or agenda?

    I am not on council or a relative of anyone in city government, nor am I on the payroll.

    I watch the council meetings whenever possible.

    I serve as an active member of a neighborhood group that often interacts with the city.

    I am a parks supporter.

    I am for fiscal responsibility.

    I want a local government that listens to people but also gets things done.

    I am very much for transparency in government and have never had a problem finding out what I want to know here in Ann Arbor.

    I work in another city and pay some attention to local government there.

    The “closeness” (HD) of my information?
    If there is an issue I want to know about I call my council members and ask them what’s up as I did with the liquor license.

    I suppose I am not an average citizen (JQ), I am probably more informed than the average citizen.

    I was appointed to serve on a couple of city boards back in the late 90’s and learned a lot about city govt. Of course they never got anything done back then while in this decade they have accomplished a lot, one of my reasons for being a fan.


       —Dustin    Feb. 22 '08 - 09:29PM    #
  45. Dammit, Dustin, I thought were all still grieving about the missing totter, and you bring us right back to city government. ;-)

    Dustin wrote: “If there is an issue I want to know about I call my council members and ask them what’s up as I did with the liquor license.”

    Fair enough. In that case, you introduced the information on AAiO by with the somewhat vague, “I heard that …” From the vague formulation, I concluded incorrectly that this information came to you in the ‘normal’ course of your life. I think if you had specifically named the CM in question who had provided that opinion over the phone, that CM might not so enthusiastically pick up the phone when you called next time, which is not what we want.

    On the other hand, the fact that the opinion came from a CM might cause readers to attach more importance to the opinion than if it’s introduced by saying, “I heard thus and such.” And citing the kind of source, if not the name, would mitigate against the kind of erroneous conclusion that I drew earlier.

    So thinking towards the future, if the opinion is obtained with a simple phone call to your CM, it seems me that every single time, it represents an opportunity to make the point to blog readers that it’s something they could also do. When introducing that information on a blog, right then and there saying, “I got the following information with a simple phone call to my CM” would have more impact than the general public-service type announcements that we find on the City website or associated with campaigns: contacting your representative is so easy!

    Or given that not every CM prefers phone calls to email, perhaps the ambiguous, “Via a communication with my CM, here’s what I learned,” would work.


       —HD    Feb. 22 '08 - 11:15PM    #
  46. HD: Have you reported the missing totter to the excellent AAPD?


       —Dustin    Feb. 22 '08 - 11:39PM    #
  47. Dustin: “Have you reported the missing totter to the excellent AAPD?”

    Thanks for getting back on topic. I was afraid this was going to get all policy wonky and civic minded again.

    No, I have not made a formal report. In the case of a missing person (and she’s like a totter to me) time is of the essence, I know. But in this case, I just have a gut feeling that it’s a prank, and filing a report could wind up in somebody getting arrested, when they really should get some kind of prize for pulling off a great caper.

    But believe me, if it comes to it, I have total confidence in the abilities of people like Chief Jones and Detective Sheikh, two alums of the totter, to bring any real criminals who might be involved to justice.

    So I’m going to wait it out for now.

    ——-

    I apologize for taking this thread pretty far afield of its original topic. So any subsequent developments on the apparent theft will be posted on Teeter Talk. And any clues, suspects beyond the (obvious) list of totterees, can be communicated to me there.


       —HD    Feb. 23 '08 - 12:21AM    #
  48. I am not a golfer so I ask this question. Does drinking on the golf course improve your game?
    There’s vomit all over Ann Arbor. Does it need to be on the golf courses too?


       —Sherry    Feb. 23 '08 - 05:54AM    #
  49. Young people, some older people, they drink too much, they puke. I haven’t noticed it but maybe we hang out in different places.

    I don’t think they want to sell beer and wine at the golf course to improve the golfers game but just to get them and their leagues to play there rather than somewhere else. Hopefully the golfers can hold their booze.


       —LauraB    Feb. 23 '08 - 07:09AM    #
  50. Laura B, So it takes drugs to get people to play at golf courses? What an absurd statement. By the way I don’t frequent “hang out” places, find it a great waste of time.


       —Sherry    Feb. 23 '08 - 07:50AM    #
  51. I guess it does. If you followed the conversation at the city with the golf course consultant and the parks commission, selling beer was essential to get the golf leagues to come to a course. Golfers (like a lot of softball, disc golf and ultimate players) seem to like to have a beer after or even during a round.


       —LaluraB    Feb. 23 '08 - 04:08PM    #
  52. “I was appointed to serve on a couple of city boards back in the late 90’s and learned a lot about city govt. Of course they never got anything done back then while in this decade they have accomplished a lot, one of my reasons for being a fan.”

    Fair enough. I would expect that your involvement with city government probably makes you more inclined to be supportive of city government activity in general than the average citizen. If the city’s doing something right, there’s nothing wrong with voicing support for that.

    You should know that your comments sometimes come close to sounding like shameless shilling for a particular position which led me to ask the question in the first place. I’ve been in agreement with comments you’ve made here so I don’t say that because I feel like I’m opposed to what you say. But over time, your comments felt less like those of an interested resident and more like those of someone trying to spin the debate. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt that way either. I’m not trying to get you to change how you comment or what you comment on but just making you aware that the effectiveness of those comments can be undercut if others perceive them as hiding some other agenda. That’s one of the downsides of online discussion. I didn’t mean to offend with my question.


       —John Q.    Feb. 23 '08 - 06:45PM    #
  53. I post under my real name because it’s a cheap way to get my postings taken seriously.

    I’m startled by John Q’s query to Dustin, because I had similar thoughts about him. JQ has an insider’s insight into (and sympathy for) the workings of city government, albeit completely without a politician’s conceits.

    But it doesn’t really matter who he (she?) is. When John Q writes something, it’s worth reading.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Feb. 23 '08 - 07:55PM    #
  54. Thanks Larry. I know I don’t have any special connections into Ann Arbor’s political circles but I will admit to being a bit of a policy wonk about the workings of local government although I don’t think anyone can match your range of experience in that category.


       —John Q.    Feb. 23 '08 - 08:44PM    #
  55. Guess we’ll find out soon enough if the city will profit from selling their drugs to the leagues.
    Can’t imagine hitting a small ball while tipsy.


       —sherry    Feb. 24 '08 - 06:45AM    #
  56. Drugs are bad. MM-kay.


       —Mr. Mackey    Feb. 25 '08 - 12:56AM    #
  57. HD writes, “The point about branding made last night by Suarez was that granting the license to the golf course would erode Ann Arbor’s brand”

    Oh, I thought that someone arguing against beer on golf courses as likely to result in brand erosion implied that someone else was arguing for a liquor license at the golf course on the basis of its consistency with the Ann Arbor “brand”.


       —Anna    Feb. 25 '08 - 06:50PM    #
  58. To Whom It May Concern.

    I’m Ed Shaffran and I don’t use a user ID of Parking Structure Dude or any other ID other than my name. If I have something to say, important or otherwise, I don’t have to HIDE behind a user ID. I have no problem being quoted. I have no problem with open and honest chatting/conversation/email/opinion, but I do object to someone say that are me when they are not. Thanks. Please reframe from being Ed Shaffran as the world one needs one of me! Thank You. Ed Shaffran


       —Ed Shaffran    Feb. 26 '08 - 03:59PM    #
  59. Ed, I was out of town all of last week and haven’t been looking in here. I apologize for appropriating your name, and I concur that the world only needs one of you. I hoped that everyone would figure out that I was goofing around; because while you seem to be an outspoken, pro-development, rabble rouser (who has in the past had issues with the hat lady) you’re not the asshole that I am. Call it wishful self-aggrandizement. I thought the joke would be more obvious.


       —Parking Structure Dude!    Mar. 3 '08 - 02:25PM    #
  60. Don’t sweat it PSD, it was obviously a joke. But for the record: if any of you out there didn’t know PSD was joking, David Cahill isn’t Humpty-Dumpty either.


       —Juliew    Mar. 3 '08 - 03:31PM    #