Government :In the News

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Creating a multimodal city requires more than less cars

The challenge to building a city that truly offers alternative transportation amenities means reconciling some difficult relationships. CityLab sums up the issues with transitioning to a multimodal community.


"Supporting many modes requires including multiple actors in the planning process, all with different priorities and preferences. More travel choices also means private entrepreneurs will take the lead on some services normally offered by the public sector: from taxi or bus services to parking management to goods movement. And with the benefits of redefining and reallocating street space in a multi-modal system come new political problems in terms of fighting for that space, too."

Read the rest here.

Conquer the Cold commuting pulls in record number of participants

Now entering its third year, Ann Arbor's getDowntown commuter challenge has registered more than 500 people to commit to winter weather non-automotive commutes in the month of January.

According to getDowntown's Business Services Director Nancy Shore the current stats are:

413 people have logged at least 1 commute so far
2,885 commutes have been logged in total
Most popular types of commutes logged: Walk, Walk & Bus.

Check out the photo documentation of getDowntown's Facebook page. And check out the inspirational comics drawn by local artist Bruce Worden here

Mayor Taylor's commitment to art has Interlochen roots

Ann Arbor's new mayor has made his support of public art and the arts in general very clear. Interlochen, the renown arts education institution, believes it played an important role in the mayor's formative years.


"While arts and politics may not seem a natural match, Taylor says his experiences in the arts have helped him in his years in elected office. “I see Interlochen’s influence with both skills and substance. Substantively, it gave me an appreciation for the arts and for culture, which are crucial to place-making and successful city planning. On the skills side, the training I had as a singer and actor helps with stage presence and public speaking."

Read the rest here.

Former entrepreneur joins SPARK to assist new startups

Though it meant a pay cut, entrepreneur Bill Mayer has settled in as the vice president of entrepreneur services at Ann Arbor SPARK. The Freep chatted with him about his job.


Q: OK. Let's say, I'm just a guy who just got laid off from the line, and I decide I have the next best product, next great idea — and I want to start my own business. How do I build my network and surround myself with smart people?
A: Well, so that's why places like SPARK, TechTown and Automation Alley exist. They tend to be hubs for entrepreneurial activity. If you are an entrepreneur, like entrepreneurship, you are kind-of a tech junkie, you work for a start-up, you just want to see what this entrepreneurship is all about, come to a SPARK event. There are like-minded people here. If we have have 100 people at an event, and you don't walk away with 15 business cards, it's bad on you. We try to make it easy. And in the Midwest, we tend to be a pretty friendly bunch. One person will introduce you to three, each of those people will introduce you to three more.

Read the rest here.

Ann Arbor and DTE team to build solar farm at the airport

Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? The venerable mostly coal-dependent energy company DTE has decided to partner with Tree Town to build a roughly 10-acre solar array out at the Ann Arbor airport.


"DTE spokesman Scott Simons says the solar array would be a continuation of the utility’s Solar Currents program and would help Detroit-based DTE meet the state’s renewable energy standards. Simons says most of its renewable energy is coming from wind power.

Simons says power would go directly to the grid and would produce enough energy to power about 150 homes."

Read the rest here.

Ann Arbor Library among best in nation

Ann Arbor's library system gets five stars with regard to circulation and services. How about we construct a downtown building that honors that sterling reputation?


"For the seventh straight year, the library system has earned a five-star ranking in the Library Journal's yearly Index of Public Library Services. "

Read the rest here.

Washtenaw County an early adopter of single point of entry homeless services

As financial support dwindles, nonprofits that are part of homeless service system are adopting new strategies to offer care. 


"Here's how it works in Washtenaw: A nonprofit organization called Housing Access handles all visits from potential clients. A separate 24-7 hotline operated by the county's Salvation Army fields calls for services. Staff members then assign clients a vulnerability rating that determines what kind of services individuals receive.

Outside of a few exceptions, such as the domestic violence shelter, the organizations don't field calls directly from potential clients. By having just one agency screen potential clients, the system streamlines the intake process and ensures that all participating agencies receive the same data, making it easier for agencies to coordinate on getting clients a shelter bed."

Read the rest here.

Ann Arbor's secret auto lab

Shhhh. It's a secret. There's a lab in A2, the only Federal testing facility in the country, that determines what a car's m.p.g. rating really is. Or so the Freep tells us. There's no telling how many reporters they lost getting this information.


"The MPG audits performed in Ann Arbor are increasingly important with several companies forced to restate inaccurate fuel economy figures. Hyundai, Kia, Ford, Mercedes-Benz and BMW have had to revise their claims and some have sent compensation checks to owners.

The accuracy police at the EPA have changed some of their testing, now auditing more aspects of each vehicle as a result of the misleading stickers. And the lab in Ann Arbor, which is the only federal lab to do fuel testing, continues to expand its overall."

Read the rest here.

How cities can make smarter economic choices

Bruce Katz of the Brooking's Institute has some advice for metro regions… and points to San Diego as a city that 'gets it.'


"We have 100 metropolitan areas that really power our economy forward. They all have really distinct economic profiles — what they make, the services they provide, what they trade, who they trade with. Buffalo is not like Boston. San Diego is not like Syracuse. In the great words of Dolly Parton: “find out who you are and do it on purpose.” Cities should invest in those things that will really power their distinct economy forward — in some places that might be an investment in a port or an airport.  Everywhere it will require an investment in skills but it needs to be really customized to the kind of economy you have.

Read the rest here.

How living wage requirements impact nonprofits

Ann Arbor's living wage ordinance comes under review in an evaluation of how living wage ordinances (ie. increases in minimum wage salaries) would impact their ability to execute their mission. NPQ weighs the pros and cons.


"Increasingly, the sentiment among political leaders is that nonprofits may not always warrant the exemption. In some living wage ordinance structures, nonprofit organizations have an opportunity to demonstrate a need to be exempted from the wage increase. For example, in Ann Arbor, the Community Action Network applied for exemption from the local living wage ordinance, which the original ordinance permitted based on need. However, in granting the exemption from the ordinance, CAN had to submit a plan to demonstrate how it would come into compliance with the living wage rate (at that time, in 2012, $12.17 an hour for employers paying for health insurance, $13.57/hour for those not providing health insurance) in three years."

Read the rest here.

Zingerman's co-founder weighs in on minimum wage

Paul Saginaw, co-founder and partner at Zingerman's blogs about his company's commitment to a thriveable wage for its employees.


"I hear many in the restaurant industry say raising menu prices will result in customer loss and diminished profits, but I reject that and question the scale of those profit margins, wondering if the margins are maintained by shorting their employees. Customers have voted with their pocketbooks for locally sourced, organic, and free-range products. Now is a prime time to educate “voters” for ethical employment practices as well.

Many myths about the industry workforce and the minimum wage create a false reality and highly unproductive debate. The truth is that livable wages and profits are not mutually exclusive, and Zingerman’s are not the only businesses to know this and operate accordingly. RAISE, an alternative restaurant association, is aligning businesses across the nation to adopt “high road” labor practices. Zingerman’s Community of Businesses joined. I sense that there is public readiness to join this growing business leadership and leverage its consumer dollars to “vote” for raising standards for workers."

Read the rest here.

Why traffic lanes shouldn't be 12 feet wide

Wider traffic lanes are not safer, nor better for a community. We must realign our thinking away from auto-centric policies and toward people-centric policies.


"And states and counties almost always apply a 12-foot standard.

Why do they do this? Because they believe that wider lanes are safer. And in this belief, they are dead wrong. Or, to be more accurate, they are wrong, and thousands of Americans are dead.

They are wrong because of a fundamental error that underlies the practice of traffic engineering—and many other disciplines—an outright refusal to acknowledge that human behavior is impacted by its environment."

Read the rest here.


A conversation about affordable housing in Ann Arbor

Both Mark Maynard and the Metro Times have decided to tackle the issue of affordable housing - or rather the growing lack of such - in Ann Arbor. As usual their thoughts are both insightful and empathetic.

Excerpt from Mark Maynard:

"I don’t have any problem with affordable housing. I think it’s a good thing. What I have a real problem with, however, is segregation. I have a problem with a system where it’s accepted that some towns are “too nice” for the poor. And I find it doubly infuriating when these nice, liberal communities, once they’ve forced their most vulnerable citizens beyond their borders, mount campaigns to stop attempts at regional cooperation, as we recently saw play out in the battle over the AATA’s expanded role in providing bus service within Washtenaw County. Many people in Ann Arbor cried out that they didn’t want their tax dollars going to fund the transportation of people in Ypsilanti, in spite of the fact that many of those people were probably Ann Arborites before they were forced out due to the cost of living. And the same goes for everything from our public schools to our police departments."

Excerpt from the Metro Times:

"It's a good post, one that inspired a lot of people to join in with comments of their own. The general tone is one of despair at what Ann Arbor has become, how it has fallen from its days as a scrappy campus town with a good mix of incomes. After reading them, we come away agreeing that without lots of different kinds of people of different classes with different perspectives, a city is a less interesting place. As for subsidies, one needn't not have a job to not receive subsidies. The fact is, everybody in the United States gets some sort of subsidy, not just the odd person who makes it their life's work to avoid earning a living."

Read Mark's observations and opinions here.

Read the Metro Times respone here.

Head of AATA Michael Ford tapped to head RTA

Inch by inch the Regional Transit Authority creeps into being, ever-so slowly moving toward the development of a regional public transportation system. Someday. Maybe. Hopefully. Yeah, we're cynical.


"Ford faces many challenges in an area that has resisted regional transportation for decades. They include assembling a staff with a shoestring budget, helping to better coordinate services among the region’s transit providers and convincing voters in Macomb, Wayne, Oakland and Washtenaw counties that a property tax hike is needed to fund RTA operations and the Bus Rapid Transit project up Woodward from Detroit to Pontiac."

Read the rest here


Affordable housing and eco redevelopment in Ann Arbor

A pair of Ann Arbor affordable housing projects are under the microscope as WEMU looks at where green redevelopment and housing for lower income residents dovetail.


"To 'better serve both its residents and our communities' public housing in Ann Arbor will become “greener,” healthier, more comfortable and more energy efficient, thanks to a project under way that includes significant involvement from the Ecology Center.

Jason Bing, healthy buildings director at the Ecology Center, is working with the Ann Arbor Housing Commission and Norstar Development on two new affordable housing projects that are intended to be models of green and healthy residential construction. When complete, the housing units should lower utility costs, as well as provide homes that are more comfortable and healthier for their residents."

Read/listen to the rest here.
100 Government Articles | Page: | Show All