February 2, 2023

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

Greetings and salutations, everyone!

I’m Steve Friess, your new a2view sherpa, and my first act is to toss my predecessor under TheRide. Last week, Dayton slandered winter and its so-called “ugly head,” so let it be known that I love winter, I love snow, and I kinda even love this extreme cold spell. 

My husband and I moved here from Las Vegas, in fact, because we wanted to raise the kids we hoped to have in a place with seasons. Our three-year-old’s delighted cackle over the weekend as he discovered what happens when he shakes snow-covered tree branches reaffirmed that choice. Our one-year-old daughter isn’t as enthused yet, but her resistance to indoctrination will be futile.

You’ll learn more about me as we go along, but right now I’ll keep it quick: I’m a veteran freelance journalist who has reported for pretty much everyone from twenty countries and all fifty states. This week also marks my debut as a twice-weekly columnist focused on the intersection of business and culture in American gambling for PlayUSA.

Now onto the news, which was dominated by the search for a missing fifteen-year-old Pioneer High student whose body was found on school grounds. Stories like that make everything else – the fire destroying a golf course clubhouse, a cyberattack on Michigan Medicine websites, a non-fatal six-vehicle smash-up on I-94, a day-long power outage downtown – seem almost trivial.

But there was uplifting news, too. U-M is spending $20 million on artwork for the campus and its environs, two Ann Arbor restaurants are semifinalists for James Beard awards, the city council bestowed historic-building designation on the longtime home of a groundbreaking Black poet and academician, and there’s new survey news to reinforce the idea that Tree Town is among the most LGBTQ+-welcoming places in America.

There’s plenty more, so go ahead and browse. But, also, get out and enjoy that snow before it’s gone. Apparently, it’s about to get spring-like. In February. #ClimateChange, amirite?

– Steve Friess, editor

The one-time home of groundbreaking Black poet and academic Robert Hayden at 1201 Gardner Ave. is on track to receive historic district designation. Credit: Ann Arbor Historic District Commission

The News...Briefly

The county’s Covid-19 snapshot reports 384 cases in the two weeks ending yesterday, a drop from 396 last week and a continuation of the recent downward trend. There were 52.8 cases per 100,000 residents, down from 54.2, and the test positivity rate was 6.2 percent, down a tick from 6.3 two weeks ago. The CDC community level is “low” and will update at 8 p.m. tonight.

Adriana Davidson’s body found Monday: A sheriff’s K-9 unit located the Pioneer student near the athletic fields at the school, where she was last seen midday Friday. Police have not indicated a cause of death or results of an autopsy but do not suspect foul play. The school district dispatched grief support teams to Pioneer on Tuesday to help Davidson’s classmates cope with the loss, the Detroit News reports. For other counseling resources, visit the school district's You Are Not Alone page.

Fire razes clubhouse at Hickory Creek Golf Club: Crews from eight fire departments took more than two hours to put out a blaze last Wednesday that totaled the building on Napier Rd. in Superior Township. No cause has been reported and nobody was seriously injured, but the damage is estimated at  more than $1 million, MLive reports

Six-vehicle pile-up shuts down I-94 for ten hours: One person was in critical condition but, remarkably, there were no fatalities in a crash early Monday on westbound I-94 near Chelsea, MLive reports. Michigan State Police say a semi jackknifed in snowy weather, leading to the pile-up that involved three cars and two other trucks. 

Power outages close stores, government buildings: A series of blackouts on Wednesday left downtown areas without power for most of the day, the Michigan Daily reported. DTE said crews resolved the problem by 4:30 p.m., but MLive reports that power wasn’t restored to the courthouse, county annex and city center building until after 9 p.m. The Washtenaw County Commission canceled its scheduled night meetings.

Cyberattack disrupts U-M Health websites: Several hospitals and health care organizations around the U.S. experienced similar problems Monday thanks to a coordinated attack by pro-Russian hackers, the Detroit Free Press reports. The problems were mostly resolved by the afternoon, the patient portal was never inaccessible, and patient information was not compromised, a U-M spokeswoman says.

Agony continues for family of Russian prisoner Paul Whelan: The Ann Arbor-raised businessman is serving a sixteen-year sentence on what the U.S. government says are trumped-up charges of espionage. Twin brother David Whelan expressed disappointment to Observer writer Jan Schlain in the January issue after the Biden administration successfully brought home WNBA star Brittney Griner.  “Unfortunately, despite the US government’s best intentions, we all wait for Paul’s freedom to come at the hands of those who imprisoned him,” he said.

Developer seeks tax-exempt status for $200 million EMU student housing plan:  Gilbane Developers, a Rhode Island firm, will build two new dorms and renovate existing ones in exchange for receiving student housing fees for thirty-five years, according to Inside Higher Ed.  Now they want to avoid paying taxes on the revenue, MLive reports.  EMU’s enrollment fell 25 percent between 2016 and 2021, and the school will have 2,000 fewer student beds when the work is completed in 2025. 

U-M Medical School drops out of US News rankings: This marks the second prominent grad program at U-M – the law school was first – to end its participation in the magazine’s influential lists, the News reports. Dean and Michigan Medicine CEO Marschall Runge says the rankings “cannot possibly help students or others evaluate institutions with respect to their individual priorities." Med schools at Harvard, Duke, and University of Chicago have also dropped out. 

A2 one of three Michigan cities with perfect LGBTQ+ score: Detroit and Ferndale also aced the assessment by the Human Rights Campaign, Fox 2 reports. HRC’s Municipal Equality Index judges cities’ anti-discrimination laws, police policies, hate crime data and more.

U-M to put $20M into art on campus, around town: The new funds will be allocated over five years, ClickOnDetroit reports, “to make the arts stronger, more cohesive and more visible, thereby transforming their role at the university and benefitting the lives of students and the entire community for years to come,” UMMA director Christina Olsen said.

City Council to designate groundbreaking Black poet’s home historic:  The cozy white Cape Cod with blue shutters and a red door at the corner of Gardner Ave. and Westminster Pl. in Lower Burns Park was home from 1969 to 1989 to Robert Hayden, the first Black faculty member of the U-M English Department who held a precursor office to  Poet Laureate of the United States. It was built in 1936 and, according to a report to the City Council, sits in a neighborhood that was predominantly white when Hayden and his wife moved in. The council is expected to approve a second reading this month, the Daily reports. 

Broadway Park West breaks ground:  City leaders and other dignitaries gathered on Tuesday to launch construction on the seven-acre park on the site of a defunct coal gasification plant, MLive reports.  A new conservancy is overseeing the work, which will front a waterfront development with condos, a hotel, and shops. DTE CEO Jerry Norcia took the opportunity to tell the crowd that despite the utility’s opposition to the city’s proposed ban on gas service in new buildings, DTE supports Ann Arbor’s goal of being powered 100 percent by renewables by 2030.

Homeowner Deb Pulk with Community Action Network's Krystal Steward and Homeland Solar’s installation crew after receiving free solar panels in the Bryant neighborhood. Pulk says her electricity bill has fallen 80 percent. Credit: Community Action Network.

The ‘decarbonizing’ of Bryant has begun: In southeast Ann Arbor’s diverse, economically challenged neighborhood, the Community Action Network is using a $500,000 grant to install solar panels on about twenty homes as a trial run for the citywide A2Zero effort to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, Antonio Cooper writes in February’s Observer. 

Lawsuit filed over lighting at roundabout: David and Lisa Black, who live just north of a roundabout installed in 2020 at Miller and Wagner roads in Scio Township, are suing the county, arguing that  their home value has fallen by more than $25,000 due to its intrusive lighting, MLive reports. They remain unsatisfied after the county lowered the wattage of some  bulbs, and they have recruited U-M astronomy professor and anti-light pollution advocate Sally Oyes as an unpaid technical adviser.

State Sen. Jeff Irwin sponsors bill to loosen food-aid rules: The Ann Arbor Democrat wants to axe a requirement for recipients to prove their lack of assets for food stamp eligibility, the Michigan Advance reports. Currently in Michigan, applicants who have more than $15,000 in assets are ineligible for support from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Only thirteen other states have such a barrier. It is “cruel and inefficient and just wrong on so many levels,” Irwin says.

Felons lie on application, get $1.2 million county contract anyway: The County Board of Commissioners gave the group, Supreme Felons Inc., the grant to support a mentoring program that didn’t yet exist, the News reports. County administrator Greg Dill told the paper that commissioners  knew there was “a huge stretch between what [Supreme Felons]  said they did and what they actually completed” when they approved the contract, which is funded from a $250 million federal program that aims to reduce homicides through “violence interruption.” 

County health officer joins Trinity Health Board: Jimena Loveluck, who has led the health department since 2019, began a three-year term on the board of directors for Trinity Health Ann Arbor and Trinity Health Livingston last month, MLive reports.  The Observer profiled Loveluck in April 2021 as the Covid pandemic was reshaping her stewardship. She was named 2022 Woman of the Year by the county’s United Way branch for her pandemic response.

Two A2 restaurants in running for James Beard honors: Spencer on E. Liberty, is one of twenty eateries nationally to be tapped as a semifinalist in the prestigious culinary honors’ Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program category, MLive reports. Owner Ji Hye Kim of Miss Kim in Kerrytown is a semifinalist for Best Chef in the Great Lakes region.

Student-founded garden for refugees lands $100,000 grant: The project at U-M’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens provides plots to new immigrants to grow ingredients for traditional dishes, Sarah Royalty Pinkelman reported in the 2022-2023 City Guide. Now-senior Phimmasone Kym Owens, herself from a refugee family from Laos, launched the program in partnership with Jewish Family Services; the grant will expand the program and extend it for three years, the Daily reports.

U-M violin major to defend blindfold Rubik’s Cube championship in Seoul: Ann Arbor native Stanley Chapel, twenty-one, won a world title in “speedcubing” in 2019 in Australia and expects to go to South Korea later this year to compete again, the Associated Press reports. Speedcubers solve a three-by-three cube blindfolded by distinguishing the six different shapes of each side. Chapel can do this in seventeen seconds – and also can perform a Bach sonata by memory.

Jessie Zhu’s family is steeped in the food industry in China, and she has culinary training as well. Her new restaurant, Bao Space, began in her Scio Township kitchen. Credit: J. Adrian Wylie.

Marketplace Changes

Bao Space replaces Vedge Cafe on N. Main St.: Steamed, stuffed buns cost $6 to $8 a pair and are selling like, well, Chinese hotcakes, Dave Algase reports in the January Observer. The restaurant is owned by Jessie Zhu, whose husband Raphael Yue said, “We have a lot of customers who really like – really like – the baos.”

Ann Arbor Restaurant Week starts Sunday: The six-day event, which ends February 10, features thirty local restaurants offering a variety of deals for take-out and dining in. Check out the list of participants and what they're offering here.

Tesla opening showroom and service center in Scio Township: The electric vehicle giant took over the former Bel-Mark Lanes bowling alley property at 3530 Jackson Road and has already opened the service center, MLive reports. Manager Adam Cichy says the showroom will open in coming weeks.

Remodeled liquor store reopens: Falsetta’s Market, 2200 Pittsfield Blvd., had been closed since November for “unforeseen remodeling,” MLive reports.  It has been back in business since January 12, now with a new “rustic look,” the owner said.

Palm Palace deploys robots to ease staffing shortage: The Middle Eastern restaurant bought two “BellaBots” from China-based Pudu Robotics to carry food to tables and whisk empty plates away, Trilby MacDonald reports in January’s Observer. The owner says it saves about ten minutes per order. Each one cost $25,000 but saves $500 a day in labor costs.


Free tax prep available: Members of the public who make less than $60,000 can make appointments to get help filing 2022 income taxes through the United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. The service is available Mondays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 2 p.m. as well as Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the United Way, 2305 Platt Rd., by appointment only. Call their social services helpline at 211 to make an appointment. 

Power of the Purse tickets now on sale: The 15th annual event to benefit United Way of Washtenaw County, featuring a purse and handbag auction, will start at 5:30 p.m. on March 8 at the WCC’s Morris Lawrence Building. It’s the first time the event is happening in person since before the Covid pandemic. Tickets can be bought online for $75 each and include dinner and a drink ticket. 

Sign-up open for 10th annual Big House 5K: The April 16 race, which snakes through the U-M campus and ends on the 50-yard-line at Michigan Stadium, benefits six causes including Freshwater Future and the Washtenaw Area Council for Children. The cost is $28 per person or $25 for kids under 10. Register online.

Things to Do

By Jennifer Taylor

 3 Friday

See a discussion between radio host Rob Reinhart and veteran rock journalist Gary Graff about Graff's new book Alice Cooper at 75, a portrait of the Detroit rocker through the conceit of seventy-five career accomplishments and events. Followed by a screening of the documentary Super Duper Alice Cooper (Sam Dunn, Scot McFadden, & Reginald Harkema, 2014) at 8 p.m. Doors open and book signing at 7 p.m. Talk at 7:30 p.m. $12 (students and seniors, $10; members, $8) at the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty.  Tickets available in advance here or at the door.

4 Saturday

Join Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Commission staff and volunteers in “Hunt for the Yeti,” a massive creature hunt in search of the elusive Eddie the Yeti, with clues, riddles, and prizes, followed by hot cocoa and a snack. Last year, more than 900 people joined in. Noon to 1 p.m., 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., and 1 to 2 p.m., Rolling Hills County Park, 7660 Stony Creek Road. $5, plus $6 (nonresidents, $10) vehicle entry fee. Preregistration required by Feb. 3, 4 p.m. here  (activity #RH731308). 

5 Sunday

See Theatre Nova’s production of Julia Cho’s whimsical 2010 romantic comedy “The Language Archive,” about a man obsessed with documenting the dying languages of far-flung cultures even as his own capacity to communicate, along with his marriage, is deteriorating. 2 p.m. Plays every Fri. to Sun., Feb. 3 to 26. Theatre Nova, 410 W. Huron St. Mask & proof of vaccination required. Tickets $22 ($10 for kids under 17) in advance here and (if available) at the door. 635–8450. 

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

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