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April 27, 2023

Can you guess what is pictured in the photo above? Click the image for the answer and more.


Add couch-burning to the list of things we didn’t do back in the early 1990s when I was an undergrad at Northwestern. Sure, we uprooted goalposts and threw them in Lake Michigan after snapping one of our epic football losing streaks in 1991, but that’s about as crazy as we got. Over on Greenwood Ave., though, a semester-ending sofa fire festival was all fun and games until two cops got hurt. Maybe they should go back to beer pong? Is that still a thing?

With everything else going on at U-M, from the ongoing strike to sterling new national rankings, that incident would seem unimportant. But I’m still just confused about why. Why is burning furniture in the street entertaining? Somebody, please explain. And while you’re at it, can someone tell me if a five-foot tree growing from an acorn of a felled 300-year-old mammoth can be considered a “seedling” or a “sapling”? We saw it written both ways but, umm, it's five feet tall. When do we just call it a tree?

In the meantime, here’s this week’s news. A high school play is being disarmed, the state may soon bar people seeking psychiatric therapy from getting their help virtually, another top official of one of our fast-growing towns is finding the job too much work, and a local breeder is going to judge at the world’s most prestigious dog competition for the eighth time.

As I wonder whether the fossilized Doritos in my recliner would make for good kindling, I wish you a bright and arson-free week.

–Steve Friess, editor

P.S. Ari Weinzweig from Zingerman’s wrote this lovely tribute to murdered Jude Walton on his blog.



Strikers continue to picket at the new Central Campus Recreation Building construction site on Washtenaw Ave. and Geddes Rd. as U-M's Graduate Employees' Organization walkout rolls into its second month with no end in sight. Credit: John Hilton.




The News

GEO strike gets even more rancorous, intractable: A month in, there’s no end in sight for what the union says is the “longest GEO strike in history.” U-M followed through on a threat not to pay the strikers and insists it awaits a new proposal from the graduate student union, the Michigan Advance reports. Both sides are accusing the other of negotiating in bad faith, and tensions have boiled over with the brief detention of two strikers who blocked a car carrying president Santa Ono when he left a local restaurant. Ono canceled a plan to play cello with the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra on Saturday as part of its season finale out of concern that his appearance might cause a disruption. Meanwhile, a month-old crowdsourcing campaign to provide financial support to the strikers so far has brought in more than $308,000 as of Thursday morning.

Rowdy block party ends in injuries to two cops: Police arriving at Greenwood Ave. near Packard on Friday found an unruly, belligerent crowd burning a sofa in the street, according to a press release. Efforts to shut down the party prompted someone to throw a glass bottle at a squad car, and flying glass from that impact cut one officer. Later, someone threw another bottle at a squad car, but the suspect got away and a second cop was injured during the foot pursuit. Police are asking the public to help identify the suspect from a blurry photo posted on their Facebook page.

Man killed by train in Ypsi: The 42-year-old was walking along the tracks when he was struck by an Amtrak passenger train near the intersection of Huron River Dr. and LeForge Rd. on Saturday morning, MLive reports. Police say the death was accidental and not being investigated as a suicide.

Drama over weapons removed in upcoming production of “Oklahoma!”: Prop guns and shooting sound effects will appear in one scene where it’s critical to the plot, but otherwise the Pioneer High School Theatre Guild will leave out other instances of gunfire in its performances of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical over the next two weekends. The decision is a compromise after a social media outcry met plans to excise all gun-related material “in response to the ongoing epidemic of gun violence,” per to a joint e-mail from the guild and school administrators. “This has provoked many thoughtful and important conversations.” 

Post-Covid, state may require in-person therapy again: In a letter to patients, the county Community Mental Health division warned that the May 11 end of the national pandemic public health emergency means Michigan may no longer allow phone or video sessions. There's some confusion on this front, though, because a note on the website of the Department of Health and Human Services suggests telemedicine may remain OK until the end of 2023.

Chelsea Schools weighs hiring a cop: The board heard a presentation by county sheriff Jerry Clayton earlier this month as it gathers information about the effectiveness of adding a SRO, or school resource officer, the Sun Times News reports. Clayton said an SRO must be a sworn police officer from a local department.

May Mobility adds 300 jobs at A2 headquarters: The self-driving shuttle company says it is also making $18 million in new investments in its offices on Avis Dr. and warehouse space on Highland Dr., according to a press release from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The company, whose lead backer is Toyota, operates on-demand shuttles in Ann Arbor and two other cities. A fourth is coming to Sun City, Arizona.

Ypsi alcohol-making equipment firm part of $100M merger: GW Kent is one of six companies being combined into the Lotus Beverage Alliance assembled by the New York-based investment firm Ronin Equity Partners, Crain’s Detroit Business reports (paywall). The new conglomerate also includes parts makers based in New York, Denver, Nebraska, and Oregon. GW Kent founder Randy Reichwage says the merger may mean he must expand his workforce beyond his 21 employees.

A2 attorney launches Democratic campaign for Senate: In a three-minute YouTube announcement posted last week, Zack Burns described his deep Michigan roots and views on education, policing, the environment and unions. He joins U.S. representative Elissa Slotkin and Detroit-area civil rights activist Nasser Beydoun in the race for the Democratic nomination to succeed senator Debbie Stabenow.

Chelsea city manager quits, citing burnout: Rory Atkinson, appointed just ten months ago, tendered his resignation last week in a letter that indicated he found the job overwhelmingly stressful, MLive reports. When he was hired at thirty-two, he was the first new city manager for Chelsea in 15 years.  Atkinson’s resignation comes just weeks after Dexter Township’s elected supervisor quit citing the job’s high demands.

City launches $700,000 process to rewrite comprehensive plan: Council voted to give the contract to Philadelphia-based consultants Interface Studio LLC with an eye toward guiding new development that could lead to permitting denser neighborhoods, MLive reports (paywall). The effort will involve public open houses and online surveys and conclude next year with a report to the council.

I-94 entrance in Ypsi closed until May 5: The westbound entrance to the freeway from northbound Huron St. is shut down for bridge maintenance, MDOT says. Also, southbound Huron St. as it passes over I-94 is down to one lane for the same time period.

Public input sought on art themes for parks: The city is inviting residents to answer a brief survey about  commissions for the planned pedestrian tunnel between Bandemer Park and Barton Nature Area and the vehicle and pedestrian bridge at Gallup Park. The questionnaire will remain open until Monday.

City staff oppose food truck rallies in Library Lane parking lot: In a memo to council, administrator Milton Dohoney and deputy administrator John Fournier said the concrete plaza next to the downtown library is “not well-suited” for such operations. It also would cost the city more than $130,000 in lost parking revenue and other expenses, Dohoney and Fournier wrote in a missive that responded to a November request by council to explore the idea.

Six U-M grad schools rank in top ten nationally: The latest assessments from U.S. News & World Report put the Marsal Family School of Education in a No. 1 tie with the Teachers College at Columbia University, the Ford School of Public Policy at No. 4, and the School of Public Health at No. 5 in their respective disciplines. The College of Engineering, the Ross School of Business, and the School of Nursing also ranked in the single digits.

U-M researcher to oversee $2.3M RNA-mapping project: Pediatric neurologist Vivian Cheung is a co-lead on an international effort “to identify the full range of RNA building blocks inside human cells,” according to the University Record. The funding, from the Warren Alpert Foundation, intends to set the stage for an RNA-mapping effort similar to how the Human Genome Project mapped DNA. Cheung will manage the work along with colleagues from MIT and the University of Cincinnati.

Tuition rises for in-district students at WCC: For the first time in five years, the school is increasing the cost of a credit hour to $99, up $4, according to a press release. WCC says the new price is still the lowest in the state. The per-credit rate for students living outside the county rose $7 to $176 for in-person classes and $5 to $125 for online classes.

U-M non-discrimination policy now covers caste: The school joins Brandeis, Brown and the California State University system in adding a protection against such bias and harassment, according to the Record. Caste discrimination can be an issue for many people of South Asian extraction and include Christians, Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus. The addition emanated from a Faculty Senate committee and is now listed along with other protected groups on the website for U-M’s Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office.

WCC among seven schools sharing $30M gift: The Ballmer Group and Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation announced the three-year effort to provide money to community colleges in the Metro Detroit area, Bridge Michigan reports. Washtenaw Community College is getting $2.09 million, and in a press release it says the money will go to Advance Ypsi, a soon-to-launch program to train students for careers in mobility-focused transportation, manufacturing, and IT sectors with an earning potential of at least $40,000 a year.

Two Washtenaw International High seniors win $50,000 scholarships: Atticus Carradine and Anika Naik learned of their good fortune at the school’s annual baccalaureate honors convocation last week, MLive reports (paywall). The awards, funded by an anonymous local dono, go to a high-achieving student with some significant community service experience. Carradine is heading to Olivet College this fall to study kinesiology and exercise science; Naik plans to attend U-M and major in either political science or public policy. 

Drug-resistant fungal infection detected in Washtenaw: The state health department gave no details on the local case or cases, but it raised an alarm that Candida auris is an emerging public health concern, the Detroit News reports. People in hospitals and nursing homes are most vulnerable to what the CDC termed “severe illness” in part because it is hard to test for and treat. There have been 87 cases in Michigan so far this year, compared to 135 in all of 2022.

Tappan Oak sapling to be planted on Central Campus: The 300-year-old tree was cut down in 2021, but an acorn saved from it in 2016 by a U-M student is now a five-foot tree that will soon be returned to campus, MLive reports. Chayce Griffith, an engineering grad now studying horticulture at MSU, will donate it to U-M in coming weeks, and the school’s landscape experts will nurture it the rest of the way. The original tree, named for U-M’s first president Henry Tappan, had to be removed because a fungus in the soil was killing it.

Two hurt when car hits Zingerman’s Bakehouse: The driver was parking when they hit the gas instead of the brake and lurched into the building, MLive reports. Both of the car’s occupants were taken to the hospital with minor injuries; the shop remained open.

Forty-nine years after theft, A2 man is reunited with vintage guitar: Chuck Dunlop, a retired U-M Flint philosophy professor, lost the 1947 Martin D-18 in a 1972 break-in in Chicago but never gave up hope he’d get it back, Antonio Cooper writes in this month’s Observer. Indeed, the instrument, for which he paid $300 in 1964, made its way back to Dunlop in 2021 in a wild tale involving eBay, a repairman from Madison, Wisconsin, an empathetic musician in Texas looking for some good karma. When he got it back, “the first thing I did was sit down and play it,” says Dunlop. “I would say it sounds as good as it did when I heard it originally, maybe even better.”

A look back at a heady life on the air: Veteran producer Dean Erskine, on the cusp of seventy, reflects on a half-century in the local radio world that started with an internship at WPAG as a Pioneer High senior, Cynthia Furlong Reynolds writes in this month’s Observer. The industry was tumultuous – constant ownership and format changes – but even in the past decade he and his business partner, the radio personality Lucy Ann Lance, have found new vehicles for entertaining and informing the terrestrial masses.

A2 woman heads to New York for eighth time as Westminster judge: Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine, a longtime breeder of wire fox and cairn terriers, will weigh in on the best of breed contests involving Australian shepherds, bearded collies, Beaucerons, Bergamasco sheepdogs, Berger picards, Briards and collies at the 147th edition of the famed dog competition, according to the Westminster Kennel Club website. Beisel-McIlwaine has also judged dog shows on four continents.




The vacant party store and a neighboring empty lot at Broadway and Moore sold for $2 million this month. Credit: Mark Bialek.


Mothballed store fetches $2M:  “According to county records, 1025 and 1027 Broadway were recently acquired for a staggering amount (indicated to be just over 2 million dollars) by an LLC tied to a Northfield township resident,”  writes Developing Ann Arbor on Facebook. “This includes the long abandoned party store at the corner of Broadway and Moore and the vacant lot next to it.” As the Observer’s Dave Algase reported in November, the Victorian storefront had been in owner Eunice Choi’s family since 1992. Her late father, Hisok Hi Lee, was the longtime principal shopkeeper. 

Matty J’s Bakery and Cafe closes Friday: The owner of the shop in Saline, known for its vegan- and vegetarian-friendly sandwiches and pastries, chose not to renew its lease because, per a Facebook post, she wants to “move on to the next adventure.” Shawna Sloan has been posting updates – and sumptuous photos – of what’s still available on Facebook as well.

Zingerman’s adds Northwoods Soda to its offerings: The Deli and the Next Door Cafe are offering eleven flavors from the Grand Traverse-based beverage maker from a fountain, the famed family of businesses announced last week. Flavors currently available include cola, diet cola, root beer, vanilla cream, black cherry cream, ginger ale, blue raspberry, grapefruit and sparkling pomegranate lemonade, blueberry acai soda water and rhubarb lavender soda water. They’re the only two Northwoods fountain downstate.





Trinity Health offers free women’s cancer screenings Saturday: Uninsured and underinsured women are encouraged to take part in the “See, Test and Treat” event at the Ellen Thompson Women’s Health Center, 5320 Elliott Dr., in Ypsilanti. Women ages 21 to 64 can get cervical cancer screenings and those between 40 to 64 can get mammograms and breast exams from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Same-day results are promised. Appointments are required and can be made by clicking here or calling (734) 712-7881. 

Retired Ford engineer wins Outstanding Volunteer Veteran Award: John Kinzinger is expected to travel in late June to Washington D.C. to accept the honor from the Daughters of the American Revolution, local DAR member Martha Valen writes. Kinzinger is a Vietnam vet whose vast resume of charitable efforts ranges from organizing a yearly Thanksgiving dinner for residents of the drug rehab facility Dawn Farm to overseeing an annual event to provide 4,447 CARE packages for current servicemembers overseas. 

Drink up to raise money for homeless, at-risk youth: Mark your calendars for the fourth annual Nucleate Beer Festival from 2 to 6 p.m. on June 10 at Veterans Memorial Park to benefit Ozone House. HOMES Brewery and forty others are providing samples. Tickets are $100 for general admission, $175 for a VIP experience, and $20 for designated drivers. Click here for more information.




Things to Do

By Jennifer Taylor

Friday: Try swing dancing at Riverside Swings. All ages and skill levels can dance to prerecorded and (perhaps) live music. Preceded at 8 p.m. by a beginner lesson. 9 to 11:30 p.m., Riverside Arts Center, 76 N. Huron, Ypsilanti. $5. 

Saturday: At “Statewide Astronomy Night Open House,” learn about U-M Detroit Observatory’s antique telescopes, hear presentations on astronomical phenomena, and (weather permitting) observe the night sky through telescopes. 8 to 10:30 p.m., U-M Detroit Observatory, 1398 E. Ann at Observatory. Preregistration required online. Free. (734) 764–3482. 

Sunday: Hear actor and comedian Rainn Wilson, best known for his role as Dwight Schrute in The Office, discuss his new book, Soul Boom: Why We Need a Spiritual Revolution, a funny exploration of ancient wisdom and spirituality that argues for a healing transformation on both an individual and global level. Signing. 7 p.m., Michigan Theater, hosted by Literati Bookstore. Tickets $30 (includes a copy of the book) in advance online & (if available) at the door. (734) 5855567. 

See the Observer’s online calendar for many more local events. 


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