February 17, 2022

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

I hope everyone’s doing well amidst this yo-yoing weather. Maybe this time the forecasted winter storm will turn out to be the real deal.

School mask mandates may be waning statewide, but this week Ann Arbor Public Schools maintained their commitment to masking despite the expiring county health department mandate. In Saline, the school district saw a sharp drop in enrollment over the last two years, part of a larger trend driven by declining birth rates.

This week also saw milestones at two major construction projects: Demolition of rental houses began behind the Michigan Theater to make room for new apartment buildings, and city council gave the go ahead to widen the East Medical Center Bridge. Meanwhile, on the west side, a pilot project aims to replace racist deed restrictions with ones that welcome diversity.

In other news, Food Gatherers and DoorDash are working to feed home-bound community members, workers are moving to unionize at two local Starbucks locations, and a nonprofit is considering an arts-focused development in the county.

– Dayton Hare, editor

Demolition is underway for more new apartments near campus. Already gone is 604 E. Washington, built by a prime mover in the local Underground Railroad.  

The News...Briefly

Washtenaw County reported eighty cases of Covid-19, no hospitalizations, and four deaths in the 24 hours ending Wednesday at 10 a.m., a significant decline from last week. The weekly test positivity rate dropped a hair to 10 percent, just a fraction below the plunging statewide rate.

The Washtenaw County Health Department will lift its school mask mandate on Feb. 28, Bridge Michigan reports. Washtenaw is the latest in a string of counties to alter mask policies amid falling case numbers. MLive reports that so far, only the Manchester district plans to make masks optional when the order ends. A petition calling on the AAPS to lift its mandate has gathered some online support.

Saline Area Schools lost 280 pupils in the past two years, the Saline Post reports. Already on a downward trend, the 5.5 percent decrease is causing funding difficulties and forcing the district to entertain new staffing models. The district’s troubles mirror similar problems statewide and across the nation, resulting from lower birth rates.

A pair of apartment buildings are going up behind the Michigan Theater, MLive reports. After a two-year pandemic delay, work began this week to clear four rental houses from the future site of the development, which will begin with sixteen “microunits” in a six-story building behind the theater, followed by a 240-unit, nineteen-story high rise on Washington.

City Council this week narrowly approved a resolution to widen the East Medical Center Bridge, according to the Michigan Daily. The rebuilding would add an additional lane for cars by reducing the width of the sidewalk, and was passed over objections that the move could jeopardize cyclist safety and hinder U-M’s carbon emissions goals. The change is the inverse of the prevailing trend in town, which in recent years has seen automobiles lose space to pedestrians and cyclists.

Racist clauses are being excised from Ann Arbor property titles, the Michigan Daily reports. Deeds to many properties contain racial covenants restricting home ownership to members of “the Caucasion race.” Unenforceable since 1948 and explicitly illegal since 1968, these vestiges of a more intolerant age are the target of Justice InDeed, which is piloting a program in the Hannah subdivision to replace them with a clause welcoming people of all backgrounds.

Artspace may be coming to Washtenaw County, Concentrate reports. The Minnesota-based nonprofit was invited by the Song Foundation to explore the possibility of building an artist-oriented affordable development, possibly in collaboration with Avalon Housing. It’s inviting members of the arts community to register by email for a virtual open house next Wednesday.

Food Gatherers has teamed up with DoorDash to deliver groceries to home-bound community members, the organization announced. Funded through the delivery app’s charitable arm, the year-long pilot program will see “dashers” pick up orders for delivery from food pantries. The Gatherers are working in partnership with the Hope Clinic in Ypsilanti and Jewish Family Services in Ann Arbor, and spokeswoman Lauren Grossman emails that they’re hopeful funding will continue after a successful first year.

Workers at two Ann Arbor Starbucks stores are organizing a union, the Daily reports. Their petitions calling for unionization votes are part of a national campaign by the Service Employees International Union, which scored its first success in December at a company-owned Starbucks in Buffalo. Union drives are also underway at Starbucks in Clinton Township and Grand Blanc.

Reader Jeff Evans asked if South U's Belly Deli was gone for good. Observer Marketplace Changes sleuth Micki Maynard went to look and found this.

Marketplace Changes

Ann Arbor Restaurant Week begins Sunday. The annual celebration of the city’s dining scene will feature meals for two, chef and bartender demonstrations, and other attractions at the numerous participating restaurants. It runs Feb. 20–25.

The Common Grill in Chelsea will shut its doors next month, owners Craig and Donna Common announced on Facebook Sunday. After thirty years running the popular restaurant, the pair have decided to retire, according to MLive. The restaurant’s final day is March 13.

The Belly Deli on S University Ave has closed permanently, according to a sign posted in its window over the weekend. The minimalist restaurant served sandwiches, salads, and buns with an Asian flair.

Crazy Wisdom Bookstore closed on Tuesday, the eve of its fortieth anniversary. Owners Bill Zirinsky and Ruth Schekter announced their intention to step away from the retail business last November, but the store continues  online. They’re currently offering a 15 percent discount to visitors who complete a survey about expanding their print and online publications, the Crazy Wisdom Community Journal and Crazy Wisdom Weekly ezine.

Things to Do

by Jennifer Taylor

17 Thursday: Get the scoop on a key struggle for civil rights by Zooming into co-writers Judith Heumann and Kristen Joiner’s discussion of “Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist” (2020), a book Publishers Weekly calls “a must-read for activists,” and the 2022 Washtenaw Reads selection. Heumann was one of the stars of the 2020 Netflix documentary Crip Camp, and leader of the seminal 1977 25-day sit-in at the San Francisco Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare offices. Hosted by the Ann Arbor District Library. Free. 327–4200.

18 Friday: Feeling tragic? Shakespeare in Detroit founder Sam White directs students in the U-M Theater Department’s production of “Antigone,” Sophocles' classical Greek tragedy about a woman destroyed by her refusal to subordinate her sense of family honor to the demands of the state. David Mulroy’s 2013 translation faithfully reproduces the literal sense of Sophocles’ words, using fluid iambic pentameters for the spoken passages and rhyming stanzas for the songs. Runs Feb. 17–20. 7:30 p.m. (Thurs.), 8 p.m. (Fri. & Sat.), and 2 p.m. (Sun.), Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre. Tickets $27-$33 in advance at tickets.smtd.umich.edu and at the door. Mask & proof of vaccination (or negative Covid test within past 72 hours) required. 764–2538.

19 Saturday: Find out what a gandy dancer is at the 52nd Annual Train Show and Sale, hosted by the Ann Arbor Model Railroad Club. The Midwest’s largest model railroad flea market draws model railroaders, collectors, and train buffs from all over to display, trade, and sell model railroad equipment and memorabilia at more than 300 tables. Also, a kids’ zone, displays of model train operating layouts, clinics by club members, and a raffle. Concessions. Feb. 19 & 20. 10 a.m.–4 p.m. (Sat.) & 10 a.m.–3 p.m. (Sun.), Saline Middle School, 7190 N. Maple, Saline. $6 (scouts in uniform, free; kids age 10 & under, free with a paid adult). Mask required. 426–0829.

22 Tuesday: Take a deep dive into the micro and macro worlds of nature through the lens of art by attending, in person, "Art in Nature: This Art Is Too Big (and Too Small) To Be Made by Humans,” which is part of UMMA's new "Subject Matters" series. Each evening gives community members a chance to learn about one very specific, very interesting topic through a highly focused tour of the collection, discussion, and hands-on activity. This evening is led by UMMA curator David Choberka and U-M art lecturer and artist Cathy Barry. 6–7:30 p.m., UMMA, 525 S. State. Free. Preregistration required at umma.umich.edu/events. 764–0395.

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

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