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May 4, 2023

Can you guess what is pictured in the photo above? Click the image for the answer and more.
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Greetings and May the Fourth be with you. Yes, I’m one of those Star Wars dweebs who enjoys the “holiday” that emerged from this silly calendar pun. I don’t dress up like Luke or Leia, I haven’t gotten my kids the sheets or action figures (yet), and I’ve long since given up trying to consume all of the modern-day related content. But “The Empire Strikes Back” was the first movie my father took me to in a theater and that’s a treasured memory, so I'll take any chance I get to remember how awesome he was.

What was the first film you saw in a theater? Email me!

Back here on Earth, we have the requisite helping of GEO strike updates, a distressing amount of crime news this week, more road construction and detours, and the nice surprise of a well-known country star with no known ties to our region coming to sing for the free breakfasts of many who can’t afford them. And, on a personal note, I salute the planning board of Superior Township, where I live, who supported a rezoning request to allow for Garrett’s Space, a teen depression residential center.

As I ponder just how much damage toy lightsabers could do in the hands of two rambunctious toddlers, I wish you an out-of-this-world week ahead.

– Steve Friess, editor

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The ongoing graduate students strike was front-of-mind in, around, and above the Big House over graduation weekend. Courtesy: Graduate Employees' Organization Twitter feed.

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The News

Grad student strikers send commencement message: From leafletters outside the Big House to an airplane overhead towing a banner reading, “Congrats! So Proud! Love From Striking GSIs” to undergrads who decorated their mortarboards to support the strikers, the labor strife gripping the university was never far from minds as thousands of graduates received their degrees. The strike also drew a round of national attention, including from The Nation and NPR. Meanwhile, recent donations to strikers’ crowd sourcing fund include the entire salary of Ann Arbor city councilmember Linh Song as well as $2,591.15 from a striker who was evidently mistakenly paid last month.

Superior Twp planning board recommends rezoning for Garrett’s Space: The unanimous decision came after a three-hour debate among residents and mental health experts over whether to allow the use of a seventy-six-acre plot on N. Dixboro Rd as a residential treatment center for struggling teens, MLive reports (paywall). The project, which now goes to the township board for approval, is the brainchild of Julie and Scott Halpert, whose son, Garrett, died by suicide in 2017.

City lands $588,000 grant for geothermal push: Ann Arbor will use the U.S. Energy Department money to assess the feasibility of the alternative energy source for 262 homes in the Bryant neighborhood, MLive reports (paywall).  Advocates believe geothermal power can cover more than 75 percent of the heating and cooling load for the homes, Bryant Elementary School, Washtenaw County Community Mental Health, and the city’s Wheeler Service Center public works facility.

Poll shows strong support to build new downtown library: Fifty-seven percent of respondents to a survey commissioned by the library district said they favored a thirty-year 0.5-mill tax, and 76 percent support a thirty-year 0.25-mill tax, MLive reports (paywall). Also popular was the idea of a mixed-use building with apartments above the library as a gambit to pay for the library without new taxes. There’s no specific plan to replace the library.

Bank of America offers a downpayment assistance program: The lender would cover up to $17,500 to Washtenaw County borrowers with household incomes up to $94,240 per year. The program has existed for a few years in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston, St. Clair and Lapeer counties. For more information, click here.

Voters approve funding measures: Saline and Whitmore Lake both overwhelmingly renewed their schools property taxes in Tuesday’s election, with Whitmore Lake adding a Headlee override, while Chelsea easily re-upped its taxes to support fire services. Whitmore Lake’s approval was a reversal of its narrow rejection of the same measure last November. 

Floor collapse displaces three families in Ypsilanti Twp.: Construction materials intended for renovations of a vacant first-floor unit in the 1500 block of Village Lane were too heavy, MLive reports. Nobody was injured when the floor fell into the basement on Monday, but three families living in other units in the building had to evacuate.

Saline man accused of sexual assault of Ohio teen: Danil Baker, twenty-two, is due in federal court Tuesday to answer charges he forced a fourteen-year-old girl to perform sex acts on him in a Kroger bathroom in Westland in December, the Saline Post reports. The indictment alleges that he posed as a seventeen-year-old when he met the girl on the multiplayer video game Roblox.

Father charged in 1982 slaying of infant: Washtenaw County district judge Cedric Simpson bound Isiah Williams over for trial this week after ruling there was enough evidence to merit a count of open murder despite the fact that the baby’s body was never found, according to a news release from attorney general Dana Nessel's office. Eight-month-old Olisa Williams vanished in July 1982; Isiah Williams, now seventy-six, was extradited from Chicago to face allegations. The defendant has a long, brutal history of domestic abuse allegations.

Man accidentally shoots himself in confrontation near school: A twenty-year-old shot his own abdomen and leg while fleeing police along with another man near Rawsonville Elementary School in Ypsilanti Township, MLive reports. The men, who were approached by police after reports of sightings of men with guns in ski masks, are both in custody. The school was put on a brief lockdown.

Feds offer $5,000 reward for tips on finding murder suspect: The body of Patricia Fowler of Ypsilanti, who was twenty-one, was found in Detroit in November in a burned out car’s trunk. Two suspects have been arrested, but U.S. marshals are still looking for twenty-eight-year-old Bashid Bristol-Davis of Belleville, Fox2 reports. Anyone with information about Bristol-Davis’ whereabouts can call (866) 865-8477 or submit a tip online here.

Appeals court rejects convicted murderer’s claim of police misconduct: In a 3-0 decision, the judges of the Sixth Circuit dismissed Rason Horton’s argument that two Ann Arbor detectives failed to inform him of his rights when Horton was questioned in New Mexico about a robbery-murder in A2 and a robbery in Detroit, the Detroit News reports. Horton is serving a life sentence for the crimes, which occurred in 2004.

Nineteen birds, one cat left outside Humane Society: The abandoned menagerie included seventeen parakeets and two cockatiels in a single metal cage, according to a HSHV press release. The cat, found in its own cage with a note, appears to have been abandoned separately. CEO Tanya Hilgendorf says the agency is investigating, because “leaving animals in a cage or crate outside all night is neither safe nor humane.” Also this week, HSHV issued a warning for dog owners about a countywide outbreak of parvovirus, a potentially fatal gastrointestinal ailment preventable by vaccine.

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The heavy machinery moved north on Main St. as a new phase of construction between Liberty and William streets began this week. Credit: John Hilton.

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$22M in new roads projects greenlit: Council’s unanimous approval funds four major efforts, MLive reports (paywall). S. State will get new bike lanes, resurfacing of some sections between Granger and South University, new crosswalks, and water main repairs is to be done this summer and similar work on Hill St. is scheduled for 2024. Also this summer, parts of Brooks St. will be resurfaced and sidewalk and water mains repaired; Research Park Dr. will be resurfaced and  add bike lanes; and W. Madison will get water main work, resurfacing, and a “mini-roundabout” at Madison and Eberwhite.

Roadwork to close I-94 ramp near Ypsi for eight weeks: The $1.14 million reconstruction of a quarter-mile of Michigan Ave., which begins tomorrow, shuts down the westbound freeway off-ramp to eastbound Michigan Ave. and the westbound Michigan Ave. on-ramp to westbound I-94, according to the Washtenaw County Road Commission. Hewitt Rd. in the area will be reduced to one lane in each direction during the construction.

New phase, new Main St. closures as $8M project progresses: The stretch between Liberty and Washington will be closed until mid-July for the next steps in the effort to install new water mains, modernize sidewalks, and resurface the road, the city says. Main between Liberty and William is now open and looking spiffy.

Stretch of Geddes Ave. closed until June 9: The road from Observatory to Hill is getting repaved and the sidewalks upgraded, the city says. Local traffic for residents will remain open.

Venue developer Margaret Poscher’s next act is even bigger: What began in 2012 as a cosmetic renovation to a student rental in Lower Burns Park has blossomed into roughly twenty properties and a reimagined neighborhood, Jordan Scenna reports in this month’s Observer. Following up on the September opening of Venue, a co-working, dining facility at Stadium and S. Industrial, her next plan is a $100 million, eight-story, mixed-use apartment complex that would replace an entire block of student rentals on S. State between Henry and Stimson. The development, known as Southtown, brings Poscher and her co-owner and wife, Heidi Poscher, that much closer to their goal of creating a “fifteen-minute neighborhood.”

Ypsi residents get bigger recycling bins, less frequent service: Some 5,800 new 96-gallon carts will start replacing the old 25-gallon ones next week, while reducing collection frequency from every week to every two weeks, MLive reports. The $292,000 equipment upgrade was paid for by grants from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, Washtenaw County and the Recycling Partnership, a national advocacy nonprofit.

City launches ‘Pollinator-Aware Yard Care’ program: An extension of “No Mow May,” it encourages  residents to reduce mown areas and grow them out as high as one foot all summer  to provide habitats for important insects. A variety of tips and information is provided on the city’s website including what sort of native groundcover and plants are advantageous and chemical-free pest mitigation options. In addition, residents are urged to post signs to let neighbors know that the shaggy look is  intentional. To sign up for email information, click here.

U-M launches $130M Electric Vehicle Center: The ambitious research effort is being led by engineering professor Alan Taub, formerly vice president of global R&D at General Motors, according to the University Record. Taub will oversee $50 million in technology research, $20 million for workforce training for the industry, and $60 million to “expand campus infrastructure to support electric vehicles.”

School board forms equity, inclusion panel: The two- or three-member standing committee, modeled after similar ones in Chapel Hill, Palo Alto, and Louisville, will keep watch on the district’s policies and curriculum and make recommendations to the board, WEMU reports.

Women’s tennis wins second consecutive Big Ten title: The Wolverines overcame Ohio State on Sunday to repeat as conference champs and secure their twenty-first straight berth in the sport’s NCAA Tournament. The team faces Youngstown State on Friday in the first round in Ann Arbor. 

Renee Fleming, Michael Feinstein, Yo-Yo Ma among 2023-24 UMS performers: Season ticket packages went on sale this week for the University Music Society’s 145th season kicking off this fall. The 2023-24 calendar boasts a diverse lineup that also includes such talents as the Jerusalem Quartet, Mariachi Herencia de Mexico, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Martha Graham Dance Company. Handel’s Messiah is there as always, but so are quirkier productions such as a concert of music from The Godfather films and, to open the season, the return of the Grammy-winning troupe Snarky Puppy.

Author seeks to revive memory, appreciation for 1950s singer: New York-based musician and culture writer Howard Fishman’s new book, “To Anyone Who Ever Asks,” delves into the life and disappearance of the almost-famous chanteuse Connie Converse, Eve Silberman writes in this month’s Observer. Converse gave up on a music career and lived for many years in Ann Arbor until 1974, when she fell into a depression, vanished, and was never found. Fishman wants readers to know about the pioneering work and voice of a singer-songwriter whose highly personal songs and plaintive voice presaged the likes of Joni Mitchell.

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Marketplace

Karlene Goetz of Goetz Greenhouse & Farm in Riga was among the vendors at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market for its first 2023 Wednesday market despite very un-springlike temperatures. Credit: John Hilton.

Halal burger joint opens beside Shell station: Taystee’s Burgers, with locations in Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, and Warren offers cheeseburgers that start at $7.99 for a five-ounce patty with basic toppings and sauce, Dave Algase reports in this month’s Observer. This shop, in a new building next to the Shell at the corner of Eisenhower and Ann Arbor–Saline, also offers fries, chicken, beef hot dogs, milkshakes, and smoothies.

Free seeds, seedlings available Saturday in Chelsea: The Chelsea Area Garden Club is offering the giveaways at the Chelsea Farmers Market’s season-opening weekend, the Sun Times News reports. Seedlings for Eastern White Pine trees and seed packets containing “a delightful blend of twenty wildflower species that support Michigan's pollinators” will be on offer from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 304 S. Main St. in Chelsea.

Wednesdays are back at A2 Farmers Market: It didn’t much feel like spring, but hardy vendors were on hand for 2023’s first mid-week market yesterday. For the rest of the year, the Ann Arbor Farmers Market at 315 Detroit St. will be open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on both Wednesdays and Saturdays with some 120 Michigan-based vendors selling flowers, herbs, produce, seedlings, plants, eggs, meat, cheese, jam, pastries, and crafts by local artisans. 

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Helpers

Pilar’s Foundation selling tamale meals to go Saturday for earthquake relief: Proceeds from the fundraiser go to Doctors Without Borders to support their work caring for displaced and injured people in Turkey and Syria following February’s 7.8-magnitude temblor. Tickets for the meals, which include vegetarian tamales, black beans and rice, cabbage salad and much more range from $75 to $175 and can be bought here. Meal pick-up will be between 3 and 6 p.m. at Zion Lutheran Church, 1501 W. Liberty St. For more information & to volunteer, send an email or  or call (734) 585-5630.

Roseanne Cash will headline St. Andrews breakfast fundraiser: The country star is slated to appear at Michigan Theater to benefit the local church’s free program that has provided daily meals for forty years. Tickets for the May 13 show start at $30 and can be purchased here.

United Way of Washtenaw fetes top volunteers: Thirteen people and organizations were honored for good works in 2022, ClickOnDetroit reports. They included Trinity Health IHA Medical Group president Cindy Elliott as CEO of the Year, U-M’s Debbie Schilz as Volunteer of the Year, and Retirement Income Solutions for Workplace Giving Campaign of the Year.

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Things to Do

By Jennifer Taylor

Friday: Take part in a low-impact, high-intensity all-age group workout to music at the U-M stadium at “Barre in the Big House.” A portion of the proceeds benefits Garrett's Space, a suicide prevention nonprofit, and Ele’s Place, a nonprofit that helps families grieve. 6:30 to 8 p.m., Michigan Stadium, 1201 S. Main. $25$75, preregistration required here.

Saturday: Hear Toledo jazz vocalist Ramona Collins and her quartet perform a program of fun, sultry interpretations of familiar tunes at Kerrytown Concert House. Collins is known for her commanding and nimble voice. 7:30 p.m., KCH, 415 N. Fourth Ave. Tickets $29 to $50 (students, $19) in advance here and at the door. (734) 769–2999. 

Sunday: Join some 1,300 people for the 45th Annual Burns Park Run. This year’s event offers 5-km and 10-km chip-timed races along beautiful tree-lined streets and a half-mile “fun run” ($5) around the park. Event includes live music by the local classic rock band Ain’t Dead Yet, and awards for the top male, female, and non-binary finishers in each age group. Proceeds benefit Burns Park PTO programs. T-shirts, and running caps available. 8:30 a.m. (5-km run and walk), 8:40 a.m. (10-km run), and 9:45 a.m. (fun run), Burns Park, 1700 Wells. $30 in advance here or, if available, at the race.

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

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