Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tony Derezinski

This is Tony Derezinski, a former state senator from Muskegon who has lived in Ann Arbor for many years now and is in the second year of a two-year term on the Ann Arbor City Council. I caught up with him for lunch on Monday to talk about his reelection campaign. Tony is a U.S. Navy Vietnam veteran, a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, and has a master of laws degree from Harvard Law School in Urban Legal Studies. He enjoyed a successful career that let him travel the world but always brought him back to Michigan.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Big Dig

A significant amount of excavation work has been completed on the Library Lot site in downtown Ann Arbor where the Downtown Development Authority is constructing a four-story underground parking deck.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Ride

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority is eyeing its opportunities and making a push right now to expand countywide. The authority's governing board tonight voted on two measures related to that effort, including a contract for development of a countywide transit master plan and a contract for marketing and public relations services in support of the development of that plan. "I'm excited because we're going to be spending the rest of the year developing this vision," said board member Jesse Bernstein, former president of the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce. "The first step is to listen and talk to everybody we can."

Martin Sexton

Martin Sexton came through downtown Ann Arbor today and played a free in-store show at Borders as a teaser to two back-to-back performances at The Ark tonight. I saw Martin for the first time back in the summer of 2002 when he opened for John Mayer at Meadow Brook Music Festival in Rochester Hills. It's funny that a quote John said about Martin that night — "'the best live performer I've ever seen" — is used to this day on promo materials for Martin. He's touring right now to promote his latest album, Sugarcoating, which he explained today is a collection of songs about heavy topics that are, well, sugarcoated in such a way that they don't come off as being too strident.

Time Well Wasted

Most afternoons when the weather is warm, Tom Goss can be found somewhere on the University of Michigan Diag, slapping a small piece of oak against the grain of an old Chore Boy washboard. The steady, scratchy rhythm echoes through the Dennison Archway and bounces from building to building — married with melodic notes pouring from his harmonica and the beat of a small percussion instrument tucked under the laces of his left shoe. For the past 11 years, the Ann Arbor resident has turned heads, perked ears and raised eyebrows on the diag — and even had a Facebook page started in his honor. It turns out the Chicago native who came to Ann Arbor in 1980 actually is a research lab technician on campus and just likes wasting time after a long day's work.

Time Well Wasted from Ryan Stanton on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Nickels Arcade

Nickels Arcade is a covered shopping district in downtown Ann Arbor. Built in 1918, it is home to a diverse range of shops, including a few pictured here: Comet Coffee, Van Boven Shoes, , Arcadian Antiques and A-1 Alterations.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Michigan Democratic Party Endorsement Convention

The Michigan Democratic Party today held a first-of-its-kind endorsement convention at Cobo Hall in Detroit. I was there as a journalist, but not covering the event. Instead, I was shadowing state Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith, who is running for governor of Michigan. I'm writing an in-depth candidate profile on Smith, who lives just outside Ann Arbor, leading up to the election. Until then, here are some sights from today.

Night And Day

I photographed these two critters on Thursday. The suspicious looking squirrel I came across on the University of Michigan Diag let me get pretty close — maybe she liked the camera, or maybe she was frozen in fear. Her more nocturnal friend, the raccoon in the second picture, is a little harder to spot. This nervous furball played the role of dare devil to get down from a second-floor balcony in an alley off of Main Street. I watched for nearly 10 minutes as it tried various routes. At one point, the masked crusader contemplated a straight dive down into the dumpster from the balcony but eventually settled on scaling down a drain pipe. In both cases, it was abundantly evident that these two animals were experiencing a range of emotions and doing some serious analytical thinking about the situations in which they found themselves. Now ask yourself, are they really that much different than us?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Guitar Hero

I had about a half-hour today to net some art for a story on the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority's proposal to expand parking meter enforcement hours from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Tony Massey, an employee of Varsity Barber Shop on East Liberty Street in downtown Ann Arbor, passes time by playing guitar while he waits for customers. He said customers frequently complain about the price of parking and extending meter enforcement hours would keep more people from coming downtown.

A visitor to downtown Ann Arbor uses one of the parking pay stations on Main Street. It took him about two minutes to get the machine to accept his payment. After unsuccessfully trying coins, he resorted to using a credit card. "It has a couple kinks, but it's practical," he said. "We lost a little time, but that's fine."

Customers of Conor O'Neill's Irish Pub enjoy drinks at the bar. C.W. Jensen, far left, was in town on business from Portland where he said downtown parking rates and meter enforcement hours were expanded about a year ago. "It just keeps people away from the city core, which shouldn't be happening," he said.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Mayor

Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje discussed the city's budget challenges at a town hall forum Wednesday night. One of the biggest hurdles, he said, is Michigan Public Act 312, a 1969 law that provides for compulsory arbitration of labor disputes in municipal police and fire departments. "One of the things that mayors across the state are lobbying for and the Michigan Municipal League is lobbying for is a change in Act 312 at the state level because it is extremely difficult to work with the police and fire unions to get anything back. Sometimes they'll get a wage increase and the arbitrator does not have to take into account the ability of a community to pay and that's one of the key points. So we're pushing on that in Lansing. I don't know if there's going to be any change, but it would help communities across the state to sort of level the playing field when it comes to union negotiations."

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

On The Campaign Trail

Later this year, voters in Ann Arbor will pick from a field of candidates for several positions in city and county government, as well as state representatives in the Legislature. I've been sitting down with some of the incumbents and some of the newcomers and getting to know them for a series of personal profiles I plan to write sometime in the coming months. Here are a few of their portraits along the way.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Cheech and Chong

Tommy Chong, his wife Shelby Chong, and Cheech Marin, performed their patented brand of stoner comedy Saturday night at the Michigan Theater. They told the story of the formation of Cheech and Chong and encouraged marijuana use to a sold-out crowd that cheered in support. Cheech talked about moving to Vancouver where he met Chong, who owned a topless club. It was there that they combined their talents and formed the comedy duo known as Cheech and Chong. Several crowd-goers smoked joints in broad daylight while standing in line outside the theater.