Ann Arbor Area Community News
Don’t interpret this as a return for ArborUpdate (the once and future king of Ann Arbor), but I saw this press release sent to the group email, and wanted to post it up here:
Grand Rapids has announced a January layoff of 125 staff, including 44 police officers and 25 fire fighters. Mayor George Heartwell is calling for a tax increase.
Troy has announced deep cuts and possible layoff of 1/3 of city staff. City Manager John Szerlag has proposed a 2 mill tax increase, but more cuts are needed.
Kalamazoo: a total of 51 jobs eliminated in this round. City Manager Kenneth Collard may announce more deep cuts and more layoffs.
Every few years, Brighton-based Interstate Traveler Company pops up briefly with their visions of solar-generated hydrogen-powered mag-lev high-speed rail pods that could carry everything from people to individual automobiles to freight, provide conduits for public utilities, revitalize the American steel industry, and even provide remedies for drought and famine, all through private investment expense.
Usually, their appearances get no more than a single news article, but this time they seem to have found traction. On June 15, the company presented to a State task force, claiming they had $2B in private investment lined up to build a Lansing-Detroit line. They would require the State’s involvement only in providing permission to use highway right-of-ways for the system, which would be built on elevated tracks built in the medians of I-96, US-23, and I-94.
The proposal will now get a public hearing locally on July 10, from 10am – noon, at the University of Michigan’s Palmer Commons. Later presentations are planned for Grand Rapids and Detroit, according to the A2News.
The proposal has its skeptics, including commenters on the DetroitYES forums and The Transport Politic blog. State Rep. Bill Rogers (R-Brighton), who heads the legislative task force, responds that a privately-funded system is at least worth a look. As quoted by DetNews, “If they truly can finance it, I don’t know why it couldn’t exist,” Rogers said. “I just don’t know if the money is there.”
Ever since Jim Epolito announced his departure as Michigan’s top economic development material, speculation has flown over who would succeed him (at least, among we geeks who read the business press). Ann Arbor SPARK‘s own Mike Finney was among the leading names, but MEDC has recently nominated Greg Main.
Grand Rapids area native Main formerly worked in Michigan’s Commerce Department in the 1980s sees familiar issues: “We were talking about diversification back in the 1980s. As soon as the auto industry started coming back we sort of forgot about that. I think what has changed is the world has changed… As the economy comes back, the places that prosper are going to be strong, innovative economies.”
Main will be moving home from Oklahoma City, where he recently retired from economic development group i2E, Inc.
Liveblogging Governor Granholm via the Michigan Radio live stream
[click through for the full page]
MLive has an article up about its upcoming redesign. There’s a screenshot of the new homepage, too. Some new things include more news above the fold homepage, local sports in a prominent position, and highlighting of most-commented articles. I don’t see evidence of local ads in the style of the Ann Arbor Chronicle, but that may yet be coming.
An anguished cry arose from area non-profit job seekers this week, as visits to Michigan Comnet, Southeast Michigan’s best (only) non-profit and public sector jobs posting site, found only a redirect to the United Way of Southeast Michigan, with the terse note:
Michigan Comnet was discontinued on November 30, 2008. Listed below are comparable resources for job seekers and employers.
“Comparable” resources apparently include detroit.craigslist.com and monster.com. The Michigan Non-Profit Association’s Classifieds appear more targeted, but are not free for job posters.
So far, I’ve not been able to find any explanation for Comnet’s demise, nor any comparable resource. Is anyone familiar with the situation?
The Ann Arbor News notes that Chelsea School District Superintendent Dave Killips has removed the student newspaper’s long-term advisor, English teacher Phil Jones. Jones said the removal followed a private meeting in he criticized the Superintendent over long-running questions of editorial control of The Bleu Print by the school administration. While not advising the newspaper, Jones will remain an English teacher at Chelsea High School.
The new dispute between the student-run newspaper and the administration follows an incident in October 2006 when then-Principal Ron Mead ordered the removal of what he called a “one-sided’‘ story about alleged preferential treatment of Chelsea High School football players by area police.
An A2News article from March 20, 2008, cites Jones as saying that he understand that budgetary constraints were the reason for removing the journalism class, but he criticized the administration’s treatment of the paper at that time by saying, “I encourage the kids to try to take chances, but that’s been beaten out of them. The paper is now pretty bland.”
(Disclosure: this blogger was on the Bleu Print’s staff in 1997, while a student at CHS, and notes that tensions related to administration oversight of the paper existed at that time as well.)
It appears to be that time of the year again, when local candidates start lining up for the August joust.
According to the Ann Arbor News, three candidates have signed up to run for Mayor Pro Tem Chris Easthope’s Council seat, as he seeks a district court position:
Council seats currently held by Ron Suarez (D-1st), Joan Lowenstein (D-2nd), Stephen Kunselman (D-3rd), and Margie Teall (D-4th) are also up for election this year.
Mayor John Hieftje (see also previous campaign site) will be challenged in the August Democratic primary by last cycle’s write-in candidate Tom Wall, who appears to be the first candidate with a campaign site for the year. The winner will be challenged by Eric Plourde, a sophomore PoliSci student at Michigan running as a Libertarian.
The news notes that all eleven Washtenaw County Commission seats are up for election this year, but I don’t know of any competitions yet. Three Ypsilanti City Council seats are up for election, also without any competition yet. The Ypsilanti Township Supervisor’s race, however, already has four potential candidates, including incumbent Supervisor Ruth Ann Jamnick, Washtenaw County Commission Karen Lovejoy Roe, Township Clerk Brenda Stumbo, and Township Trustee Dave Ostrowski.
The deadline to file for the August primary election is May 13, still two months away.
The Ann Arbor/Washtenaw County Office of Community Development has completed the two-year process of completing a comprehensive (and, at 220 pages, they’re not kidding) County-wide Affordable Housing Needs Assessment (15-page Executive Summary in Word format). As the invitation to their public presentation series suggests, the project is ambitious:
The goal is to provide a tool for decision makers to:
The Assessment, which provides recommendations for all portions of the County, will be presented at a number of upcoming meetings, all of which are open to the public, and many of which include public comment time:
The report is accompanied by an online mapping system intended to “enable users to analyze potential sites using financial, demographic, natural feature, and regulatory data and maps.” That system does not appear to be entirely operational as of this writing.
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