March 2, 2023

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

Last week, we didn’t make much of the ice storm because by publication time most of the ice had melted and we assumed by the weekend it would all be fine. Instead, it became a week-long saga about how creaky and vulnerable our power grid is. We’ll be hearing about this for a while, I suspect, and maybe something will change. I’m not holding my breath, though; in the decade I’ve lived here, we've received many seemingly sincere letters from DTE promising to do better.

There was one remarkable bright spot, though: People around here really know how to drive in rough weather and complicated traffic situations. At every intersection I approached where signals were out, motorists were patient, cautious, and aware of the right-of-way rules for such circumstances. As a result, we've seen no rash of crashes filling up the police blotter. Well done, us!

Shockingly, my power didn’t go out. Instead, I participated in another story that seemed minor (to me) a week ago: Norovirus. That thing whipped through my family as if our house was a cruise ship, minus the sun and shuffleboard. It’s no Covid, to be sure, but it’s also no joke. Watch out.

Even as the storm and its aftermath dominated our news, many other stories also grabbed headlines. Domino’s stock is struggling in the post-Covid economy, U-M lawyers helped free a man wrongfully convicted of murder after twenty-one years in prison, a collection of street closures are further complicating travel downtown, and a pair of sexual assaults have folks near North Campus on edge.

As I reach for my Gatorade and saltines, I wish everyone the best for the week ahead.

– Steve Friess, editor 

As late as Tuesday afternoon, this intersection at Prospect Ave. and E. Michigan Ave. in Ypsilanti was still without power following last week's ice storm. Credit: Steve Friess.

The News...Briefly

Outage outrage after prolonged power failures, school closures: Some 4,000 customers were still without electricity across Washtenaw on Wednesday, a full week after an ice storm glazed trees and power lines across the region. Most schools were back in session on Monday after a three-day shutdown, but a few in Ann Arbor lost power again on Tuesday after Monday’s icy rain, MLive reports. According to WEMU, the storm set off what Ann Arbor Fire Department said was its highest call volume ever in a single shift. DTE is under fire for its inability to restore power faster and widely mocked for the $35 statement credit they’re providing customers who lost power for more than 96 hours. Amid the controversy, advocates of Ann Arbor building a city-owned power utility noted that Lansing, which has one, didn’t have A2’s problems last week. Not surprisingly, DTE and Consumers energy were taken to the woodshed by citizens and politicians alike at Wednesday's county commission meeting.

Keep the shovels ready for more winter this weekend: As the region recovers from the mayhem caused by all that ice, forecasters are predicting up to nine inches of snow starting mid-day Friday. The National Weather Service has a winter storm watch on for Washtenaw starting at noon and running through 2 a.m. Saturday. It's probably smart to check this link regularly for updates.

City to collect storm debris starting March 6: Trucks will pick up large and bundled branches, but there is no set route for the service, so residents are urged to get theirs on their curb by 7 a.m. Monday. Logs, trunks or roots with stumps will not be collected, so click here to read up on what qualifies to be taken away and how to prepare debris.

Jim Harbaugh, ice storm hero: Police body camera footage captured U-M’s head football coach helping an Ann Arbor cop move a stubborn fallen tree blocking the road at Devonshire and Londonderry as the weather turned nasty last Wednesday night. A2 police tweeted the video, which had more than 1.2 million views. “That’s Jim Harbaugh,” officer Howard Cooper recalled to the Detroit News. “I was like, ‘No way.’ And the first thing out of his mouth was, ‘Hey, let’s try to move this.’ ”

Two sexual assaults reported within minutes of one another: A twenty-five-year-old woman told police a man got out of a four-door sedan and groped her at about 4:25 p.m. Sunday on Nielson Ct. near Maiden Ln. Five minutes later, a twenty-two-year-old woman about two miles away in the area of Lake Lila Dr. and Plymouth Rd. reported a nearly identical attack, ClickOnDetroit reports. Police ask anyone with information to call (734) 794-6920 or email or

Suspect sought in murder of woman set on fire in car trunk: U.S. marshals are asking for the public's help apprehending Bashid Bristal-Davis, twenty-eight, Fox2 reports. Bristal-Davis is accused of helping to place a 21-year-old in the trunk of a vehicle in Ypsilanti Township in November. The car was driven to Detroit, where it was found burned out with the woman inside. Anyone with information can call is (866) 865-TIPS or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK-UP to remain anonymous.

Debate rages over increased U-M police presence following MSU slayings: The chair of the university’s police oversight committee tells the Michigan Daily that reaction has been about 50-50 between students who welcomed the greater visibility and those who found it unsettling. Peter Larson, a public health expert and advocate of a system of non-police responses, tweeted, “Guns and policing are both problems.”

U-M Law’s Innocence Clinic helps free wrongfully convicted man: Jeff Titus, now seventy-one, served twenty-one years for the 1990 murders of two women in Kalamazoo County before being released last week when his conviction was vacated, the Detroit News reports. U-M lawyers successfully argued his rights had been violated because he was never told police had another suspect. Clinic co-director David Moran uncovered crucial evidence after Jacinda Davis of the TV network Investigation Discovery and Susan Simpson of the podcast “Undisclosed” brought renewed attention to Titus’s plight.

Madras Masala, Vape City say they’ll be back following fire: The two businesses were gutted in a devastating January 20 blaze, but both owners tell Dave Algase in this month’s Observer that they have every intention of reopening as soon as possible. “I don’t know anything else. I know only cooking,” Madras Masala owner and chef Gopalsamy Ramanujam says. Similarly, Vape City co-owner Adwan Abed says he’s in negotiations for a new location and hopes to reopen by summer.

Domino’s stock falls 46 percent from pandemic high: Pizza delivery peaked when everyone was stuck at home during the lockdowns, but it has fallen precipitously as life returns to normal, the Detroit News reports. Last week, shares of the Ann Arbor-based company fell 12 percent, its largest one-day drop since 2010, after its fourth quarter earnings disappointed Wall Street. Domino’s executives say they’re struggling with a shortage of delivery drivers, but are resisting the trend to delegate delivery to apps like Grubhub and DoorDash.

Homespun Kilwins sold to L.A.-based private equity firm: The sweets shop brand with a store in A2 now belongs to Levine Leichtman Capital Partners, which also owns Tropical Smoothie Cafe, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Mountain Mike’s Pizza, and Wetzel’s Pretzels. Kilwins was founded by Don and Katy Kilwin of Petosky in 1947, who sold it in 1978. Two subsequent owners launched it as a franchise that is now in 25 states, according to a press release.

A2 getting state’s highest marijuana tax share: The city is due almost $1.4 million, its share of a $59.5 million pot pot passed around based on the number of retail cannabis licenses in operation. The city had the most, 27, in the fiscal year 2022. Ypsilanti, with 10 licensees, is getting $518,412, according to the state.

State St. closed from N. University to Huron St. through August:  As if the work at Main and Liberty wasn’t causing enough downtown traffic drama, here comes a summerlong State shutdown so crews can extend the curbless design put in from William to N. University last year, the Downtown Development Authority announced on its Facebook page. Businesses will remain open and pedestrians will be able to use the sidewalks, but north-south vehicle traffic will be routed to Fletcher St.

Road closures coming next week for Santa Ono inauguration: Washington St. between Fletcher and Thayer will be shut down Tuesday through Thursday for the swearing-in festivities in honor of U-M’s fifteenth president, MLive reports. Ono is to be inaugurated at Hill Auditorium on Wednesday, an event expected to draw delegates from universities around the world and other dignitaries. A parade will precede the 3 p.m. inauguration and a public reception follows on Ingalls Mall at 4 p.m., according to the University Record.

Nighttime US-23 closures coming in US-12 widening project: Work began Wednesday on a $69 million project that will expand Michigan Ave. to five lanes from west of Platt Rd. to Carpenter Rd. and add new loop ramps to its interchanges with US-23, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation. Northbound US-23 will close intermittently from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. between Stony Creek Rd. and Ellsworth Rd. The project is expected to be completed by November.

A2, Troy residents team up to combat noisy highways: Homeowners along M-14 say they have to sleep with pillows over their heads because of the ruckus of the nearby roads, so they’ve been lobbying state and local politicians to do something about it, Bridge Michigan reports. The problem is that the most common solution, thick and tall concrete barriers along the highways, are expensive and often don’t work anyway.

The Observer's Sandor Slomovits is effusive about “Head, Hands, and Heart,” a show of works by local artist Elena Townsend-Efimova at the Ann Arbor Senior Center. Courtesy: Elena Townsend-Efimova.

Council approves tax breaks for affordable housing project: The builders of Union at A2, a four-story, 252-unit apartment complex at 2050 Commerce Dr., won’t have to pay property taxes under the agreement, MLive reports. The apartments are expected to serve people with incomes of $50,000 to the mid-$70,000s.

City hands partner $300,000 to dispense in sustainability grants: It’s the first round of funds in an expected three-year program to be managed by Elevate Energy, a Chicago-based nonprofit, MLive reports. Elevate is charged with providing grants of up to $10,000 to low-income residents “to make upgrades to their dwelling that advance sustainability and health,” according to the city.

U-M students to help run experimental water treatment plant: City council approved a $450,000 contract for operational assistance and research support at the facility when it is completed this spring off Sunset Rd., MLive reports (paywall). The plant will test new treatment technologies to improve water quality amid concerns about PFAS chemicals, cryptosporidium, and dioxane. Students from U-M’s civil and environmental engineering department are expected to be involved.

New union for Michigan Medicine employees: United Michigan Medicine Allied Professionals now represents some 900 diagnostic scan technologists, according to a press release from the American Federation of Teachers. UMMAP is also known as AFT Local 6739 and is an AFL-CIO affiliate.

Michigan Works! Southeast moves from Ypsi to A2: The state workforce development agency’s regional office leaves its longtime space to a larger one at 1201 Ellsworth Rd. near the Bryant neighborhood in June, MLive reports. Executive director Shamar Herron says the old offices were too small but insists, “We are not going to abandon 48197 and 49198,” Ypsi’s ZIP codes. The agency plans to create satellite spaces at libraries and community centers to make services more accessible to more people, she says.

Rec center for immuno-compromised kids coming to Washtenaw: Grand Rapids-based Children’s Healing Center plans to break ground on a new 11,000-square-foot facility in Ypsilanti Township off I-94 this spring, MLive reports. The $6.5 million center, like the nonprofit’s original site in western Michigan, is designed to be as germ-free as possible to protect kids vulnerable to infection who come for free education, arts, and fitness programs as well as summer and holiday-break camps.

An “exceptional” first show for a long-time art teacher: Reviewer Sandor Slomovits has nothing but praise for a show of “whimsical mosaics” at the Ann Arbor Senior Center by Rudolf Steiner school instructor Elena Townsend-Efimova, he writes for this month’s Observer. Townsend-Efimova used odds and ends acquired at a garage sale – among them fasteners, pegboard hooks, keys, a nutcracker, brass nails – to fashion “fanciful yet realistic depictions of insects, birds, and flowers.” The artist also displays two large Pollack-esque oils and several “masterful watercolors.” The show, entitled “Head, Hands, and Heart,” remains open until March 30.

The “P.T. Barnum of UMS” sells memoir in retirement: Ken Fischer, only the sixth head of the University Musical Society, published Everybody In, Nobody Out about his three-decade run at the height of the pandemic. His personal deliveries of the book, which chronicles an illustrious stint that included pulling UMS out of debt through prolific fundraising and arranging golf dates for Mikhail Baryshnikov, have raised an additional $15,000 for a $1 million endowment named for Fischer, Jan Schlain writes in this month’s Observer.

Marketplace Changes

A2 location is top-grossing for Fat Daddy’s Hot Chicken and Waffles: The over-the-top Nashville-style comfort food eatery is the brainchild of Romulus resident James Brandon, who answers to Fat Daddy or Chef Jay, Algase reports in this month’s Observer. Ann Arbor was the third location and an instant hit, he says. The signature item is – what else? – the Fat Daddy, a fresh, marinated fried chicken breast with slaw, sauce, and pickles on a toasted, buttered brioche bun. “If you’re on a diet, this is not the place for you,” Brandon smilingly warns.

Blank Slate Creamery reopens for the summer: The wildly popular downtown ice cream shop began filling cones and cups on Wednesday after hyping their return for weeks on Instagram. The store is offering three new flavors this season – Strawberries and Cream, Oatmilk Cream Pie, and Crinkles & Stix. To order in advance and skip the line, click here.

Cancun Mexican Restaurant & Cantina coming to Saline next month: The third location for the seven-year-old regional chain will replace a defunct Ruby Tuesday at 1375 E. Michigan Ave., MLive reports. Intriguingly, Saline already has a restaurant named Cancun Mexican Grill up the street, which is bound to create confusion. The two are not affiliated.


Monthlong diaper drive kicks off: The Community Action Network is asking for donations of unopened packages of diapers to be dropped off on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at its Northside Community Center, 809 Taylor St. Alternatively, people can donate via Amazon.

U-M sorority to provide meals for Estabrook students: The Delta Psi Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, a sorority for Black women, have committed to give 57 children two breakfasts, two lunches, and two snacks at the Ypsilanti elementary school through the end of the school year. It’s part of the Childhood Hunger Initiative Power Pack program, a national AKA effort.

‘Intent to apply’ phase opens for state’s charity assistance: The Michigan Nonprofit Relief Fund has $50 million this year to disperse to groups struggling with fundraising after years of COVID and inflation. The first phase, $35 million, will go in one-time grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 to groups with annual revenue of $1 million or less. Applicants must submit an ‘intent to apply’ form here by March 22.

Things to Do

By Jennifer Taylor

3 Friday: Catch Beth Stelling, an L.A.-based, Ohio-bred actress-comic whose act deftly blends silly, surprise-packed stories with cutting social outrage. Her 2020 HBO special Girl Daddy was deemed “best debut special of the year” by the New York Times reviewer, who called it “a virtuosic performance, conversational while dense with jokes.” Part of the inaugural Treetown Comedy Festival, which runs until March 4. 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. (doors open at 8 p.m.). The Blind Pig, 208 S. First. $20 in advance here and at the door. (734) 996–8555.

4 Saturday: See some championship wrestling, as U-M hosts the 2023 Big Ten Wrestling Championship. 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. (Sat.) and 1 to 4:30 p.m. (Sun.), Crisler Center. Tickets $15 and 20 here and (if available) at the gate. (734) 764–0247.

5 Sunday: Hear a lecture-demo “Tribute to Cole Porter” by U-M jazz piano professor Ellen Rowe, who explores some of Cole Porter’s best-loved pieces, including “Love for Sale,” “Begin the Beguine,” and “I Love You.” Her trio includes bassist Paul Keller and drummer Peter Siers. 2 p.m., Kerrytown Concert House, 415 N. Fourth Ave. Tickets $29–$50 (students, $19) in advance here and at the door. (734) 769–2999.

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

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