Monday, September 27, 2010

Not Sitting Well

The Ann Arbor City Council's unanimous vote last week in favor of a so-called "couch ban" leaves many residents, including a large number of University of Michigan students in off-campus rental housing, scrambling to figure out what to do with the old furniture on their porches. Residents with upholstered furniture on their porches have until Oct. 2 to remove the items or risk facing up to a $1,000 fine for violating a new city ordinance. Read the story here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Uno Memento

This is a piece of underground high-voltage electric cable that was put into service in May 1976 and recently was replaced and rerouted in May 2010 to make way for a new underground parking structure in downtown Ann Arbor, specifically along South Fifth Avenue between Liberty and William streets. For 34 years, this 4,800-volt cable served the Ann Arbor Federal Building. It has three copper conductors, each insulated with layers of paper insulation, wrapped in a lead sheath to maintain a water-proof seal and covered in neoprene jacketing. This type of cable is installed in conduit that runs between cable vaults (manholes) beneath the city streets and sidewalks. Today's underground cable cost, for similar types of cable, is about $1 million per mile, or $190 per foot. Thanks to Paul Ganz, DTE Energy's regional relations manager in Ann Arbor, for sharing this piece of history.

Home Sweet Homeless

This is Joseph, a.k.a. "J.J." He's been panhandling on the streets of downtown Ann Arbor for a couple of weeks, but now that summer is over he's planning to make his way out to Oklahoma to join the circus. He and some friends have been "squating" in an abandoned house in the city where they've invested a small sum of time and money to make minor repairs, clean up mold, and remove broken glass. There's also an abandoned commercial property in town that he calls his "castle." "On a good day, I can make $40 to $50 out here," he said. "Some days, I just get mean looks." His sign reads, "Home Sweet Homeless: I'm ugly, I smell bad, but doggonit people like me."

Nuking The 5th

Newcombe Clark is running as an independent candidate for the Ann Arbor City Council. He challenges incumbent Carsten Hohnke, D-5th Ward, on Nov. 2 along with Republican John Floyd. Oh, and that's Democrobot.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ann Arbor's Desi Dhaba

Eastern Flame, the place to go when it's after 2 a.m., you've had a few, and you just want good food.

Bad Spokesgirl

Panhandling Pandemic

Ann Arbor City Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, brought forward a resolution Monday night to reconvene a task force to look at the problem of aggressive panhandling in downtown Ann Arbor. The city's police chief confirmed during the meeting what some have suspected this summer: "This was a summer where the No. 1 crime that occurred in our community was aggressive panhandling." Read the story here.

Couch Ban Approved

The Ann Arbor City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Monday night banning upholstered furniture on porches, ending years of debate over the issue. Deanna LeMasters, whose stepson died in an April fire on South State Street, pleaded with the City Council to approve the ban. City Council Member Christopher Taylor, sponsor of the couch ban, said the new ordinance is a vital safety measure necessary to protect Ann Arbor residents. "It is a measure which will not protect everyone from all danger, and will not (prevent) all fires, but it is a reasonable measure that will substantially reduce risk and will save both life and property," he said. Read the story here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Playing Chicken

About a dozen protestors — including a duck, a chicken and a cow — took to the streets of downtown Ann Arbor last week to picket outside the campaign office of Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder, carrying signs that called Snyder a "chicken" for "ducking" debates with Democratic nominee Virg Bernero. The cow suit was a nod to Snyder's tenure with Gateway Computers, known for its spotted boxes patterned after cow markings. A trio of protestors held signs that read: "Rick Snyder moooves our jobs to China." Read the story here.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Drinking Games

What do you get when you mix a few dozen engineering grad students from the University of Michigan with an abundant supply of alcohol at a bachelor pad on Miller Avenue in Ann Arbor on a Saturday night after the Wolverines just won their third football game of the 2010 season? I'm sure they'd love to answer that question by plotting out the relationship between the various variables on a graph, but I'll let the pictures do the talking here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Net Zero

Ann Arbor resident Matt Grocoff plans to make his 110-year-old home on South Seventh Street produce more energy than it uses by installing state-of-the-art solar panels in the next month. Grocoff says his home will be the oldest "net zero" home in the country, and the first ever in a historic district. On Friday, he had John Rioux, a contractor from Arbor Spray Foam Insulation, apply a thick foam insulation inside the attic as part of several energy efficiency upgrades being made to the home. Read the story here.

Sending Out An S.O.S.

Michigan secretary of state candidate Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, called on University of Michigan students Thursday night to help get her campaign message out to voters. Benson is down in the polls, but popular among young voters. "The real secret weapon of our campaign is all of you," she told the crowd. "Just like in 2008 when your generation elected a president, in 2010 you will have an opportunity to ensure that the next generation of leadership in Michigan is one that can directly help you." Read the story here.

For good measure, here's another photo I shot of Jocelyn Benson and state Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith, D-Salem Township, back in April at the Michigan Democratic Party Endorsement Convention in Detroit. That was the day she earned her party's endorsement and subsequently secured the nomination in August to run for the open seat.

Crown Prince of Pundits

Michigan will continue to have a "split government" next year, says Bill Ballenger, the editor of Inside Michigan Politics and arguably the state's leading political pundit. Ballenger offered his predictions for the 2010 elections during a seminar Wednesday at the University of Michigan. Ballenger pontificated on Michigan's changing political landscape, analyzed the gubernatorial matchup between Virg Bernero and Rick Snyder, and emphasized the high importance of a race most voters probably aren't paying attention to right now. Read the story here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Kind Of Blue

This is the view down South Division Street in Ann Arbor, about half a block from my downtown apartment. The well-lit establishment you see at the corner of Division and William is Raja Rani, an Indian food restaurant that everyone raves about. Despite all the recommendations, I just can't bring myself to go there when there's a vegetarian/vegan Indian place, Earthen Jar, right around the corner and the food there is killer.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Wimpy And Nerdy

Michigan gubernatorial candidate Virg Bernero addressed the College Democrats at the University of Michigan on Sunday. He said not only is his Republican opponent, Rick Snyder, a "nerd," but he's also a "wimp" for refusing to debate him in public. The last time Michigan’s two major party candidates for governor did not debate was in 1998, when Republican incumbent Gov. John Engler refused to appear with Democratic candidate Geoffrey Fieger. Fieger aired TV ads showing a chicken running around, and called Engler a "chicken" for ducking debates. Engler still won a third term in a landslide. So far, no Bernero supporters have been spotted in chicken suits. Read the story here.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Welcome To Zingerman's

A three-dimensional model brought to Thursday's Ann Arbor Historic District Commission meeting shows the addition of a large rectangular building in relation to the existing buildings at Zingerman's Deli in downtown Ann Arbor. With approval from the HDC, the deli can now proceed with its long-anticipated expansion. Read the story here.