February 9, 2023

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

Happy Super Bowl weekend, everyone! Do you care? Has all the color gone out of your life now that the former Wolverine with the dimpled chin is not playing and (allegedly) won’t ever play again? Despair not! U-M has four ex-players in the game and EMU has one, according to Patch.com. None are divorcing supermodels or anything, but that’s just going to have to be OK in the post-Brady world.

As for me, I’ll be watching the game with Jerry Green, who is ninety-four and in 1956 became the Associated Press’ Ann Arbor bureau chief. He’d go on from there to a long career with the Detroit News, and last year, I profiled Jerry for Newsweek because he was the only sportswriter left who had covered all fifty-six Super Bowls. That streak ends this weekend; for the first time ever he’ll watch it on TV like the rest of us. His only demand of me: Keep quiet. Sure, Jerry.

If I seem chipper, it’s because this week’s news was actually pretty good for A2. A new survey found Ann Arbor is the best place to live in America, but we all knew that. A kind local couple paid off a Detroit grandma’s credit card bills in a random act of kindness. U-M faculty are making more money, Debbie Dingell is getting a big award, and the brainiacs at EMU have given me an excuse to work the Chinese spy balloon into your briefing below.

Even the bad news has a silver lining. Yes, there was a terrifying rash of fake calls to police about non-existent active-shooter situations at schools around the state including Huron High. But as serious and wrong as that was, there were no actual shootings. These days, that’s a win! Also, the air quality in parts of downtown A2 isn’t great, but I once lived in Beijing and I’m here to say be grateful you can at least see through it.

Have a winning week! 

– Steve Friess

This roundabout at State and Ellsworth is still the most accident-prone intersection in the county, although the crashes there tend to be at slower speeds and don't result injuries, new data indicates. Credit: Mark Bialek.

The News...Briefly


The county’s Covid-19 snapshot reports 412 cases in the two weeks ending yesterday, a small uptick from 384 last week. There were 63.1 cases per 100,000 residents, up from 52.8, and the test positivity rate was 9.5 percent, up from 6.3 for the two weeks ending Jan. 25. The CDC community level remains “low” and will update at 8 p.m. tonight.

‘Swatting’ disrupts seven Michigan schools, including Huron High: A wave of fake 911 calls on Tuesday sent police scrambling into locked-down schools in search of non-existent active shooters, ClickOnDetroit reports. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel warned that these false reports, known as swatting, are felonies, and AAPS Superintendent Jeanice Swift sent an email to parents saying the school is cooperating with the investigation into the incident.

Evidence mounts of toxic pollution spreading beneath city-owned site: At a meeting where the planning commission forwarded a proposal for a seventy-foot, 157-unit apartment building on the blighted property at 415 W. Washington to the cIty council for approval, a geologist said leaked diesel, gasoline, and other carcinogens from one-time underground storage continues to be a latent and potential threat to the area’s groundwater. MLive, which covered the meeting, provides extensive details and several renderings of what may rise once full remediation is accomplished. 

A2 tells Lansing to butt out: For decades, Republican legislatures have shot down city proposals with laws banning municipalities from, for example, imposing plastic bag surcharges. Now that Democrats have captured the majority, city officials tell Brooke Marshall in this month’s Observer that they’re hopeful they’ll be able to take action on a range of policies without preemption by the state.

Harbaugh’s contract delayed by NCAA allegations: The U-M football coach is accused of misleading investigators as well as certain recruiting improprieties. The Detroit News reports his contract can’t be settled until either he admits to or is cleared of the claims in an adjudication process that could stretch into next year.

Ex-Wolverine star gets cease-and-desist letter for using U-M trademark: Tennessee Titans offensive tackle and Barstool podcaster Taylor Lewan tweeted a video Tuesday and wrote his “heart is in shambles” after his alma mater demanded he stop selling $32 T-shirts with a cartoon wolverine that evidently is owned by the school. His complaint racked up more than 1.4 million views in two days.  Lewan played for U-M from 2009 to 2013 and was selected in the first round in the 2014 draft.

U-M faculty, staff, see 4.1 percent salary boosts: U-M’s annual report also indicates pay for executive officers was up 4.19 percent on average and merit increases for deans were up 5.1 percent, the Michigan Daily reports. Assistant professors saw the biggest percent raise at 8.1 percent. In all, U-M spent $6.5 billion on compensation and benefits, 62 percent of the overall operating budget.

Roundabout at Ellsworth and State still a top crash site: The Washtenaw Area Transportation Study says the two-lane circular intersection saw eighty-one accidents in 2021, more than double the second-worst, Ellsworth and Carpenter, MLive reports. The good news, however, may be that most of the State-Ellsworth collisions are non-injury fender-benders, as James Leonard reported in the September 2020 Observer. Overall, 2021 saw a 20.9 percent increase from 2020, the first year of the Covid pandemic, but also a 5.8 percent drop in the number of serious injuries and fatalities per mile driven.

A2 gets $3.8M for roads from DOT: The federal grant is among the biggest of any city to receive money from an $800 million Safe Streets and Roads for All program, MLive reports. The city is still studying the grant guidelines to figure which projects qualify, but will start with some “quick-build” pavement markings as part of its speed-management program. 

Developers land $1.7M in tax credits for Detroit St. redevelopment: The rebates are courtesy of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) as a brownfield sweetener for environmental remediation necessary to construct a mixed-use building with fourteen high-end condos, according to EGLE press release.

Readings at Main and Washington show ‘unhealthy’ air: The city has air quality monitoring equipment at that intersection as well as at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market and Bryant Community Center. Several times in the past month, Washington and Main has seen spikes in pollution that landed it in a zone where “some members of the general public may experience health effects,” MLive reports (paywall). The other two areas that are monitored, however, landed in the best zone.

Conservation district vice chair Shannon Brines, also a local farmer, supports a new environmental monitoring plan for small farms and will assist as a mapping specialist at the U-M School for Environment and Sustainability. Credit: Mark Bialek

$4.7M coming to monitor small farms’ carbon footprints: The Washtenaw County Conservation District plans to use the federal grant to help farmers assess how they can make their operations more eco-friendly, Trilby MacDonald reports in this month’s Observer. Eventually, the effort could lead to farmers statewide being able to market their products as “climate-smart.”

Rep. Debbie Dingell named Michigan Sierra Club’s Environmentalist of the Year: The Democrat was lauded by the organization’s state chapter for helping to secure $369 billion for renewable energy, clean transportation, and climate change mitigation in the Inflation Reduction Act, according to a press release. The honor will be presented on Feb. 21 at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. 

EMU balloon launched 100,000 feet up for study: China’s now-deflated balloon may or may not have been a science project as Beijing claims, but the ones sent up by Eastern Michigan definitely are part of atmospheric physics research, MLive reports. EMU is one of seventy schools participating in NASA’s and Montana State University’s Nationwide Eclipse Balloon Project, shooting high-altitude balloons into the stratosphere during solar eclipses this year and next. 

U-M president joins global alliance: Santa Ono is the fifth top officer of an American university to accept the invitation to U7+, a group of almost 100 leaders from forty-eight schools in seventeen nations that convene annually for a summit on a wide range of world challenges. Areas of focus include climate change and sustainability, economic inequality, ethical applications of artificial intelligence and more, according to the University Record.

Ann Arbor couple helps pay Detroit woman’s debt after TV report: Jim and Cindy Pierson were moved by a ClickOnDetroit report about struggling Johnetta Burnett, who took custody of her five grandchildren after her daughter died. The follow-up report doesn’t say how much the Piersons spent, but says they’re also helping her find a safe place to live.

We’re No. 1: A diverse job market, low crime rates, and a world-class university have landed Ann Arbor on the most best-of lists, making it the “best place to live in America” according to  StudyFinds.  The site cited  plaudits from several sources including Livability, which wrote that A2 has “well-designed trail systems, a passion for the arts, worldly restaurants, plus friendly, smart residents who are civically engaged.”

Human Electric Hybrids owners Jim Summers (center, with Zoe) and Kim Mayes at their new showroom with familial staffers Cody Summers and Clayton and Julian Mayes-Burnett. Credit: J. Adrian Wylie.

Marketplace Changes

Pop-up artists’ gallery returns: Catch Us While You Can/A Makeshift Gallery opened in a vacant storefront at 407 E. Liberty in early December. “My vision is to create a gallery/salon environment in the tradition of Parisian salons,” co-organizer Jim Moran told Chris Hippler in this month’s Observer. WIth works by more than two dozen local artists, it broke even in December and Moran now hopes to continue through June.

From Pizza Hut to taqueria: After months of construction, El Tapatio Taqueria y Restaurante opened last summer on Carpenter, Dave Algase reports in this month’s Observer. Hands-on owners Claudia and Juan Manuel Salinas say their street tacos proved an instant hit.  

Human Electric Hybrid e-bikes showroom opens at 320 Miller Ave.: The booming decade-old home-grown business needed more space as the carbon-free transport increases in popularity, Algase also reports in this month’s Observer. HEH’s bikes start at $2,000 and can run over $10,000 depending on if it’s for recreation or heavy-duty freight models. The company hosts an open house in the new show space on February 18 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with door prizes, refreshments, and test rides for prospective buyers.


How to donate in aftermath of devastating Turkey-Syria earthquake:  U-M’s International Center has posted a list of ways to contribute to the recovery from Monday’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake and 7.5-magnitude aftershock centered in southeastern Turkey. More than 19,000 people are confirmed dead so far and thousands more are injured or homeless.

County seeking U-M employers, mentors for SummerWorks program: It's putting out the call for departments willing to hire interns ages sixteen to twenty-four for ten-week stints as well as U-M staff who want to serve as mentors for SummerWorks youth, according to the University Record. To sign up to attend one of the virtual or in-person informational sessions being held in February and March, click here.

Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor opens grant applications: In 2022, the nonprofit  gave out more than $1 million to groups and individuals who applied for help with projects that benefited local children and families. This year’s application deadline is March 10. More information can be found on the group’s website.

Things to Do

By Jennifer Taylor

10 Friday: Hear the Brno Philharmonic, the signature orchestra of Brno, the Czech Republic, once home to composer Leoš Janáček. The program includes Janáček’s Sinfonietta and his Glagolitic Mass, a hymn to the Czech nation. Also, William Bolcom’s Humoresk for Organ and Orchestra. Dennis Russell Davies directs. Preceded at 7 p.m. in the lobby by an informal lecture “The Society for Disobedient Listeners.” 8 p.m., Hill Auditorium. Tickets $14–$72 (students $12–$20) in advance here, at the Michigan League, and (if available) at the door. Info: 764–2538.

11 Saturday: Join U-M Museum of Natural History educators and researchers for “Dinosaur Discovery Day,” fun-filled dinosaur-themed activities including a simulated dig, crafts, and lab experiments. Open to all ages 3 & up. For full schedule, go here. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. U-M MNH, 1105 North University. Free. 764–0478. 

12 Sunday: Drop into the Ann Arbor Fiber Arts Expo at the Ann Arbor Public Library, a daylong series of talks, demos, and workshops on knitting, crocheting, weaving, spinning, and other fiber arts. Also, local vendors on hand selling accessories, patterns, books, dyes, fibers of all sorts, and yarn. For full schedule, go here. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., AADL Downtown. Free. 3274200. 

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

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