Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Need For Speed

Robert West, Ann Arbor's senior assistant city attorney, left, confers with City Attorney Stephen Postema before Monday's Ann Arbor City Council meeting. On the advice of the city attorney's office, the council gave preliminary approval to move forward with ordinance changes that will make the city's speed limits more defensible in court. West acknowledged it also likely will result in raising speed limits on certain roads where motorists have complained for years about speed traps. Read the story here.

Word Games

Ann Arbor City Council members huddled during a break in Monday night's meeting to get advice on carefully wording a resolution of intent to form a corridor improvement authority along Washtenaw Avenue. It was a matter of semantics that essentially ended in the changing of one word. Shown in this last-supper-esque picture (seated from left to right) are Council Members Margie Teall, Marcia Higgins and Stephen Rapundalo. Standing behind them (also from left to right) are Council Member Christopher Taylor, City Attorney Stephen Postema, WATS Director Terri Blackmore and Planning Manager Wendy Rampson. Read the story here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Good Glögg

These are scenes from Quack!Media Glögg Party held Dec. 10 at the office of Quack! at 320 S. Main St. above Conor O'Neils in downtown Ann Arbor. The evening included festive holiday glögg-drinking. What's glögg? "Only the tastiest, coziest alcoholic beverage ever invented!" says party organizer Al McWilliams, who gives thanks to the Swedes for the mulled, spiked wine served hot. It was a good crowd and good times. There even was a photo studio with props such as viking hats and mustard costumes.

Pickle Man

I had to shoot a new portrait of AnnArbor.com freelance reporter Tom Perkins today to replace his previous avatar on our site, which featured him holding up a tennis racquet and peering menacingly beneath the brim of his large afro. I can count numerous times when I've been out in public or at a bar and someone who just figured out I work for AnnArbor.com asks me: "So what's the deal with that one guy?" They then go on to describe his picture and I say, "Ahh, yes. Tom Perkins." His deal is that he began writing for local papers while attending Eastern Michigan University. He taught himself photography several years ago and has spent the bulk of his career freelancing. According to Tom, when he isn’t shooting photos, he is on a tennis court or tending to his budding pickle empire, Perkins Pickles. He is proud his pickles won the “People’s Choice” award at the 2009 Leelanau Peninsula Pickle Off.

Stopping Time

I never realized until the other day just how dominant the Burton Memorial Tower is along Liberty Street at State Street in downtown Ann Arbor. The clock tower is located on the University of Michigan's central campus and houses a grand carillon, apparently one of only 23 in the world and the fourth heaviest, containing 55 bells and weighing a total of 43 tons. The tower was built in 1936 as a memorial for University President Marion Leroy Burton who served from 1920–1925. Of course, I'm reminded of the clock tower scene in Back To The Future now. Doc saying, "This is it! This is the answer! It says here that a bolt of lightning is going to strike the clock tower at precisely 10:04 p.m. next Saturday night! If ... if we could somehow harness this lightning... channel it into the flux capacitor ... it just might work! Next Saturday night, we're sending you back to the future!"

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Inside The Hole

Fifty-five feet below ground in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor is another world — one where construction workers toil through these chilly months to put in place the steel and concrete bones of a new underground parking structure. It's a first-of-its-kind project for Ann Arbor, and a bit of a logistical challenge for the Lansing-based Christman Co., the construction manager hired by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority to complete the project. The amount of concrete being poured for the project is enough to construct a five-foot-wide sidewalk stretching for 133 miles. In fact, it's estimated it will take about 5,100 truckloads to deliver the entire 43,000 cubic yards of concrete over the course of the project. Another 9 million pounds of reinforcing steel are being embedded into that concrete. If they were laid out end to end, those bars would extend nearly 650 miles. It's also estimated that the amount of dirt excavated and removed from the site will have taken about 6,250 truckloads when all is said and done. Read the story here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pot Problems

Medical marijuana advocate Chuck Ream has been outspoken about the city of Ann Arbor's proposed regulations of medical marijuana dispensaries. Here, he speaks before the Ann Arbor City Council Monday night. Ann Arbor officials are proposing to limit the number of medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities in the city to 15 under a new licensing ordinance. Read the story here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Death Row

Ann Arbor City Council Member Carsten Hohnke, D-5th Ward, whispers to Marcia Higgins, D-4th Ward, during Monday night's meeting. Both Hohnke and Higgins were among the five council members who blocked reconsideration of Heritage Row Apartments, a project that aims to preserve seven century-old homes on South Fifth Avenue. The alternative is a project called City Place, which proposes demolishing the homes, and that could happen now. Read the story here.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Fire In The Hole

Ann Arbor officials say they're open to considering implementation of a new paid on-call firefighting system as an option for cutting costs at the Ann Arbor Fire Department. The idea emerged today during an all-day city budget retreat as city officials brainstormed ways to address future shortfalls in the city's budget. The city's general fund budget currently totals $81.45 million. The fire department, with 89 full-time employees budgeted this year, accounts for about $13.8 million of that. The city's administration revealed a new forecast showing a $2.4 million shortfall for fiscal year 2011-12. Read the stories here and here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

99 Percent Done

The first tenants of Ann Arbor's police-courts building have moved into their new digs, and dozens more are scheduled to make the transition in the coming weeks. The city's information technology staff is now up and running with a new data center on the first floor of the city hall addition. And a handful of police department employees have moved in on the second and third floors, including the police chief, deputy chiefs and other top brass. The courts staff will move into floors four and five in January. The building formally known as the Ann Arbor Municipal Center is "99 percent done" after 20 months of construction, according to Bill Wheeler, a city engineer who retired in May but remains under contract to oversee the project until its completion. Read the story here.

Political Gabfest

Slate magazine political correspondent John Dickerson says Sarah Palin ranks up there with marketing behemoths like Apple, Nike and Coca-Cola when it comes to brand management. It seems Palin won't allow even the smallest voice of dissent on her Facebook page, Dickerson told a crowd of several hundred at the University of Michigan Law School. "Within three minutes, it had been deleted," Dickerson said of a comment he left on one of Palin's posts on Facebook. Dickerson was joined by colleagues Emily Bazelon and David Plotz as the voices behind Slate's popular Political Gabfest took their show on the road in Ann Arbor on a recent Wednesday night. During an hour-long podcast, the three pundits kept the crowd laughing as they riffed on Palin, the 2010 mid-term elections and the presidencies of Barack Obama and George W. Bush. The 350-seat lecture space inside Hutchins Hall was filled to capacity, while dozens more spilled into overflow rooms to watch a live video feed. Read the story here.