December 8, 2022

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Hello everyone, I hope you’ve been keeping well as we enter into the holiday season.

This week, the football team made history with their Big Ten win, several players entered the transfer portal, and Ann Arbor was named the second-best college town in the country. A duo of U-M debaters took home the fall semester national championship, Concordia set a record for enrollment, and the peak day for Christmas tree buying is this weekend.

The Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission bought hundreds of acres of land in Northfield Township, and in Ann Arbor, West Park got a new entrance and compost collection is switching to a monthly schedule for the winter. A U-M computer science professor was found not guilty of sexual misconduct, Sheriff Clayton announced he wouldn’t run for reelection in two years, and the Gelman plume appears to be creeping upwards and outwards.

Dayton Hare, editor

Debbie Dingell visited students waiting to vote on Election Day. While she’s hopeful about the election results, the congresswoman remains deeply concerned about the state of American politics. Photo: Alyssa Shea Mulligan / Michigan Daily.

The News...Briefly

The county’s Covid-19 snapshot reports 817 cases in the two weeks ending yesterday, up from 703 last week. There are 130.8 cases per 100,000 residents, up from last week’s 88.1, and the test positivity rate rose slightly from 10.4 to 10.8 percent. The CDC community level remains “low,” and will update at 8 p.m. tonight.

Rep. Debbie Dingell was scared for the country before the election. After the election, she still is, James Leonard reports in the December Observer. Democrats did better than expected nationally, and very well at the state level, but Dingell continues to worry about “mob mentality” undermining faith in democratic institutions.

Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton won’t run for reelection in 2024, MLive reports. After defeating his former boss, Dan Minzey, in a 2008 primary, Clayton won favor with the county board by getting the department’s budget under control, and with both the townships his deputies patrol and social-service advocates by crafting a 2017 millage to fund police and mental health services. For his successor, Clayton endorsed his director of community engagement, Derrick Jackson.

The Wolverines won their second consecutive Big Ten Championship Saturday after trouncing Purdue 43–22, the Michigan Daily reports, wrapping up a historic first thirteen-win season. They’ll face TCU at the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Eve; a win there would give them a shot at the national championship against either Georgia or Ohio State.

Flush with the success of a historic season, several key U-M players have entered the transfer portal, ClickOnDetroit reports. Senior team captain Erick All and sophomore tight end Louis Hansen both announced their departure two days after taking home the Big Ten trophy, joining former team captain and quarterback Cade McNamara.

U-M football star Mazi Smith pleaded guilty to a weapons misdemeanor today, the Detroit Free Press reports. The senior co-caption took a plea deal that saw a felony charge dismissed and would allow him to avoid a criminal record.

Multiple homes in the Burns Park area were burglarized the week of Thanksgiving, ClickOnDetroit reports. In most cases entry was forced and items were missing. Anyone with information is asked to contact the police by email or call their tip line at 734-794-6939.

A jury found a U-M computer science prof not guilty of criminal sexual misconduct Monday, the Daily reports. Peter Chen had been on administrative leave since he was charged in January 2021. “The university respects the outcome of the trial and will reach out to Professor Chen to consider next steps,” U-M spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said in a statement.

A hearing tomorrow will determine if treasure hunter Tommy Thompson will be released from prison, the Detroit News reports. The one-time Ann Arbor resident won fame with the 1988 discovery of the treasure-filled shipwreck of the SS Central America, but the riches led to a cascade of legal troubles that eventually saw him imprisoned for contempt of court until he turns over 500 commemorative gold coins to investors who financed the expedition.

The county’s parks and rec commission picked up roughly 220 acres in a $1.44 million purchase last week, MLive reports. The mostly wooded area in Northfield Township will become one of the largest publicly accessible spots around Ann Arbor once the department lays out trails and installs amenities.

A popular-but-unsanctioned entrance to West Park is being made official, MLive reports. People have long cut behind Miller Manor to enter the park from the north, but the dirt path has been growing treacherous due to erosion. Now the city’s parks department and housing commission have added a concrete walkway and terraced steps.

Ypsi shut down the outdoor “Love Stand” food pantry after its owner failed to pull the needed permits or rectify a blight violation, MLive reports. The pantry began in 2020 as a response to the pandemic, but owner Tyler Weston was charged with a misdemeanor that same year. He was found guilty in October. “We did not want him to get a misdemeanor, but you have to follow the law,” said Joe Meyers, Ypsi’s director of administrative services.

Plans for what would be the most eco-friendly apartment building in town are heading to city council for approval. The proposed quadplex on Division would run entirely off solar power. Illustration courtesy Doug Selby.

On Monday, Ann Arbor Township discovered dioxane in drinking water more than a mile north of the estimated boundary of the Gelman plume, MLive reports. A sample taken from a home north of Skyline High School found contamination above the state drinking water standard. While subsequent samples showed lower levels, the finding reinforces the township’s “concerns about the lack of sufficient groundwater monitoring,” according to supervisor Diane O’Connell.

U-M scientists say the Gelman plume may reach home basements around West Park, Michigan Radio reports. No traces of the dangerous 1,4 dioxane have been detected yet, but they’re urging regulators to continue monitoring it.

A proposal for what would be the most sustainable apartment building in town is heading to city council for approval, MLive reports. The solar-powered project at 530 N. Division St. — called The Bridge — was unanimously approved by the planning commission last month. The project would see a 24-bedroom quadplex take the place of a ten-bedroom rental house.

A hundred-year-old building on Catherine is getting a major facelift, MLive reports. Erik Majcher, owner of Atlantes Design, bought the onetime garage at 109 Catherine last year. He’s now renovating the two-story structure to give it a new facade, new stucco, a new roof, and more, in the hopes of turning the upper floor into an office for his business and leasing out the ground level.

Potential homeowners are spearheading a push to rezone a 26-acre area of agricultural land about a mile west of Platt Rd., MLive reports. The land is surrounded by residential areas, and the Pittsfield Township planning commission is moving toward a rezoning that would allow twenty new homes to be built.

The city’s winter composting program runs January through March. Trucks will empty compost bins on the same days as trash and recycling pickups during the first week of each month. The city has extensive guidance on how to keep your kitchen scraps from freezing to the bin.

Ann Arbor once was home to a grand Masonic Temple, MLive recounts. Dedicated in 1925, the building was demolished fifty years later, and ever since then the city’s remaining Freemasons have been finding other places to meet, from the Zal Gaz Grotto — which has found new life with the Cosa Sabrosa food truck taking up residence inside — to the Belleville Masonic Temple.

Concordia University set a record for enrollment this year, MLive reports. The private Lutheran college had 1,201 students this fall, the most in its fifty-nine-year existence. College officials credit the enrollment spike to a slew of new programs added over the last decade.

Zingerman’s Deli won a battle with hackers to regain control of its Instagram account, ClickOnDetroit reports. The hackers had been promoting cryptocurrency and financial schemes to the deli’s more than 33,000 followers, but a post this week announced the deli’s triumphant return to control.

Argus Farm Stop owner Kathy Sample has been named Washtenaw County’s 2023 Woman of the Year by United Way, MLive reports. A spokesperson hailed Sample and her husband Bill Brinkerhoff’’s work at their Argus Farm Stops,  which pass 70 percent of their retail prices on to around 200 local farms and food producers—a total of $15 million since 2014.

Two U-M debaters emerged victorious at the fall semester national debate championship last month, the Daily reports. Arguing that artificial intelligences should be granted legal personhood, Kelly Phil and Rafael Pierry defeated competitors from schools like Harvard and Dartmouth to enter the winter semester with a 41–4 record.

Ann Arbor landed WalletHub’s top spot for best 2023 small city college towns. It also snagged the number two spot overall, for the second year in a row, topped only by Austin, Texas.

Tree Town’s peak day for buying Christmas trees is coming up Saturday, Cynthia Furlong Reynolds reports in the December Observer. Sellers like Duke Wagatha, who’s been coming to Ann Arbor for thirty-six years, display their evergreen wares as early as the first few weeks of November, while others like Kelly Vore of Downtown Home & Garden, wait until Thanksgiving week to put out hundreds of trees.

Lisa McDonald’s space-shifting remodeling within TeaHaus’s historic building included a liquor license to serve tea-infused drinks, and even a surprise book deal from a top publisher. Photo: J. Adrian Wylie.

Marketplace Changes

The Korean restaurant Bopjib is closed for the rest of the year following the death of its chef in a car crash, MLive reports. Luis Castillo was killed in a head-on collision on Thanksgiving, and a GoFundMe page for his family has so far raised $5,000 of its $25,000 goal. The restaurant hopes to reopen in January.

Indian restaurant Desi Ruchulu opened in Hutkay’s old spot on Packard, Algase reports. A more conventional Indian cuisine concept than its health-focused predecessor, the new restaurant offers an expansive menu with over 100 choices.

TeaHaus has an expanded space and an expanded concept, Dave Algase reports in the December Observer. While selling loose-leaf tea is still the central pillar of the business, its tea room has reopened after a space-shifting remodeling, with tea-infused alcoholic drinks to follow.

As we move into the holiday season, check out the Observer’s Holiday Guide to find a wide array of events, treats, and gift ideas for holiday shopping.

“I used to raise and cut my own trees and then help cut my neighbors’ trees,” Duke Wagatha says, “but my neighbors and I finally realized that they are better tree growers than I am, and I’m a better salesman than they are.” Photo: Mark Bialek.

Things to Do

By Jennifer Taylor

9 Friday: Get a dose of madcap giddiness at the U-M Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s production of “The Pirates of Penzance,” a town-and-gown production of this classic Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera about the romance between a young lady and a young man mistakenly apprenticed to an inept band of pirates. Today-Sat. 8 p.m., Sat. 1 p.m., and Sun. 2 p.m., Lydia Mendelssohn Theater. Mask required. $15–30 in advance at the Michigan League Ticket Office,, and at the door. 763–8587.

10 Saturday: Pick up unique gifts at the Winter Art Tour, eleven juried sales and shows of fine art, textiles, ceramics, jewelry, glass pieces spread across Ann Arbor. Dec. 9–11, various times and locations. Free admission. 

11 Sunday: Hear the volunteer Ypsilanti Symphony Orchestra’s Winter Concert in a program featuring Amy Beach’s evocative 1894 Gaelic Symphony, Leroy Anderson’s A Christmas Festival and “Sleigh Ride,” selections from Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas, and other familiar tunes. 3:30 p.m., Lincoln High School Performing Arts Center, 7425 Willis Rd., Ypsilanti. $6–30 in advance at and at the door.

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

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